Sleep disturbances are a medical and public health concern in the aging population and a new study suggests that older adults may be able to sleep better with the help of "mindfulness meditation".
An estimated 50 percent of individuals 55 years and older have some sort of sleep problem. Moderate sleep disturbances in older adults are associated with higher levels of fatigue, disturbed mood, such as depressive symptoms, and a reduced quality of life, according to the study background.
The mediation practices resulted in improved sleep quality for older adults with moderate sleep disturbance in a clinical trial comparing meditation to a more structured program focusing on changing poor sleep habits and establishing a bedtime routine.
David S. Black, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the University of Southern California and coauthors conducted the small clinical trial in Los Angeles in 2012 and their analysis included 49 individuals (average age 66). The trial included 24 individuals who took part in a standardized mindful awareness practices (MAPs) intervention and 25 individuals who participated in a sleep hygiene education (SHE) intervention. Differences between the groups were measured using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), a widely used self-reported questionnaire of sleep disturbances.
Participants in the MAPs group showed improvement relative to those in the SHE group. The MAPs group had average PSQI scores of 10.2 at baseline and 7.4 after the intervention. The SHE group had average PSQIs of 10.2 at baseline and 9.1 after the intervention, study results show. The MAPs group also showed improvement relative to the SHE group on secondary measures of insomnia symptoms, depression symptoms, fatigue interference and fatigue severity. However, differences between the groups were not seen for anxiety, stress or inflammatory signaling, a measure of which declined in both groups over time.
The study concluded that mindfulness meditation appeared to have a role in addressing the prevalent burden of sleep problems among older adults by remediating their moderate sleep disturbances and deficits in daytime functioning, with short-term effect sizes commensurate with the status quo of clinical treatment approaches for sleep problems.
The study is published online by JAMA Internal Medicine.