Mindfulness Therapy Helps Bring On The Zzz’s

When it comes to getting a good night’s rest, mindfulness-based therapy may be more effective than an active sleep hygiene program in improving sleep quality.

AsianScientist (Aug. 2, 2021) – Having problems hitting the hay? According to researchers from Singapore, the key to sleeping like a baby could be mindfulness-based therapy. Their findings were reported in Psychological Medicine.

Considering the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, sleep problems have become increasingly common across the world. For instance, in Singapore alone, around half of the adult population report insufficient or unsatisfying sleep. With poor sleep linked to chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease and cognitive impairment, improving sleep quality is quickly becoming a matter of public health.

To search for alternative approaches against insomnia, the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Singapore General Hospital joined forces to explore the potential of mindfulness-based treatment. As the name suggests, mindfulness involves being mindful or aware of moment-to-moment thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations as well as accepting these experiences without judgment or reaction.

In their study, the team compared the effectiveness of a Mindfulness-Based Therapy for Insomnia (MBTI) with an active Sleep Hygiene, Education, and Exercise Program (SHEEP) to see which treatment could improve sleep outcomes in 127 older adults with sleep complaints.

Among the participants aged 50-80 years old, 65 received MBTI while 62 went through SHEEP across eight weeks. The MBTI course included exercises like mindful eating, seated meditation, mindful movement and body scans, followed by a group discussion of their experiences during the past week. In addition, participants were taught good sleep habits and behavioral strategies for sleep improvement.

Meanwhile, the SHEEP course provided participants with information about sleep biology, self-monitoring of sleep behavior and offered strategic changes improving sleep quality. Participants also learned sleep-promoting exercises such as diaphragmatic breathing, morning and evening stretching as well as progressive muscle relaxation.

Although sleep quality improved across the board, the team found that MBTI was more effective at reducing insomnia symptoms than SHEEP. Specifically, MBTI participants took less time to fall asleep and spent less time awake during the night, unlike SHEEP participants.

“Insomnia is strongly linked to hyperarousal, or a failure to switch off the ‘fight-or-flight’ system when it’s time to sleep,” explained lead author Assistant Professor Julian Lim from NUS. “MBTI uses behavioural strategies to address the bad sleep habits directly, such as…mindfulness techniques to equip people with more flexible strategies to deal with the dysfunctional or arousing thoughts.”

“[MBTI] presents a possible valid alternative for people who have failed or have no access to standard frontline therapies. Such treatment can be delivered in groups within and outside of a medical setting, providing members of the public with sleep issues easier and more efficient access to seek help,” he concluded.

The article can be found at: Perini et al. (2021) Mindfulness-based Therapy for Insomnia for Older Adults With Sleep Difficulties: A Randomized Clinical Trial.


Source: National University of Singapore; Photo: Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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