One Simple, Science-Backed Way to Sleep Better? Practice Meditation

If you want more (and better) sleep, consider picking up this healthy habit.

Research Finds Meditating Can Help You Get a Better Night's Sleep
Photo: Getty Images/Irina Shatilova

Forget tossing and turning. Getting a full night's sleep might be easier than you think. According to telling research published in JAMA, mindfulness meditation may help improve your sleep quality.

The study followed two groups of adults, 55 and older, who suffered from a self-reported moderate amount of sleep disturbances. Half of participants were assigned at random to participate in a mindfulness meditation intervention. Those in the meditation group took a six-week class that focused on teaching them to track what they were feeling, both physically and mentally, from moment to moment. The other half of participants took a six-week sleep education program, which taught proper sleep hygiene. Both programs came with homework to practice the new techniques at home and rate how well they were sleeping on a scale from zero to 21.

At the end of the study, those in the sleep education program improved their scores by an average of 1.1 points. Those who focused on meditation improved by 2.8 points—about a 13 percent gain. The bottom line? Learning mindful meditation techniques benefited sleep quality more than learning about how to sleep better.

And just imagine how well you could sleep after working on improving both sets of techniques. A similar 2020 study analyzed how a combination of sleep hygiene education and regular heartfulness meditation—a type of meditation centered on heart-centered qualities such as compassion, generosity, inner contentment, and sincerity—affects people with chronic insomnia. After eight weeks, the results, published in 2020 in the Journal of Community Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives, showed a notable decrease in participants' mean Insomnia Severity Index scores (from 20.9 to 10.4). Additionally, of the 32 total study patients, 24 initially relied on sedative or hypnotic medications to get to sleep. By the eighth and final week of practicing meditation and following good sleep habits, 21 of those 24 patients had either stopped or reduced their medication dosages.

There is ample evidence that meditation can help people of all ages, and beyond just offering better sleep. Mindfulness mediation might ease anxiety, according to Harvard Health Publications. It may also help with depression symptoms, increase focus, and even help people quit smoking. If these other significant rewards aren't enough to inspire you to try meditation, why not do it for the potentially life-changing sleep benefits?

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