MBCT-I is one of the most promising treatments for insomnia. It combines mindfulness strategies with existing cognitive and behavioral strategies to address the problems in insomnia. Deficits in experiential awareness, attentional control, and acceptance lead to poor sleep. MBCT-I addresses each of the areas. For example, body scan meditation is known to help enhance experiential awareness of both internal and external stimuli. Focusing on and shifting attention helps develop attentional control. Finally, mindfulness-based practices help individuals accept their negatively perceived thoughts and emotions and understand that these thoughts and emotions are not facts, rather are only passing events.
Cognitive and behavioral techniques target rumination, primary arousal, secondary arousal, sleep monitoring/selective attention and effort, and distorted perceptions about sleep. Each of these aspects is associated with poor sleep.
Insomnia is also commonly comorbid with depression. Mindfulness-based strategies are evidence-based effective treatments for mood disorders. This further strengthens the capacities of MBCT-I to treat insomnia and ensures long-term positive effects.
Effects of Meditation on Sleep:
Meditation has multiple benefits for the mind and body. Its benefits spread across physical, emotional, cognitive, interpersonal, and performance domains. Some of the benefits associated with sleep are as follows:
Brain Functions: Aging slows down the activity of slow waves, thereby reducing the quality of sleep. Ravindra et al. (2010) found that meditation helps the elderly to retain the sleep pattern of younger life and have quality sleep.
Autonomic activity: Increased sympathetic activity and decreased parasympathetic activity reduces sleep quality. Both experienced meditators and novice meditators were found to have a sympathovagal balance with parasympathetic predominance, thereby improving the quality of sleep (Zeidan et al., 2010).
Melatonin: It is also known as the sleep hormone and synchronizes the sleep and wake cycle with day and night. It also regulates the circadian rhythm and enhances consistent and quality sleep. Meditation increases the levels of melatonin in the body (Tooley et al., 2000), thereby enhancing quality sleep.
Types of Meditation:
There are many techniques to meditate. However, some of the techniques are specifically helpful in enhancing the sleep.
Mindfulness Meditation: Walsh and Shapiro (2006) then define mindfulness meditation as “the self-regulation practices that focus on training attention and awareness to bring mental processes under greater voluntary controlâ€. It nurtures general mental well-being and encourage calmness, clarity, and concentration. Also known as insight meditation; it is seen as those practices through which one can cultivate the ability to bring to an object of attention, a non-judgmental, and sustained awareness. It involves observing the thoughts, feelings, and sensations without being a part of them, or focusing on them.
Guided Meditation: In guided meditation, another person guides or leads through instructions about what to do at each step. They may ask one to sit in a particular position, breathe, relax, or visualize things. It is also called guided imagery. Guided meditation recordings are widely available at various online resources. One may access any of these and use it before bedtime to focus on the person’s voice in the recording and follow the instructions.
Body Scan Meditation: The focus during this meditation is on the body parts. One has to mentally scan the body moving from head to toe, be aware of the tension or any other sensations in each body part, and relax it before shifting the focus to another body part. Focusing this way induces relaxation and helps one sleep better.
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