New Delhi: A significant proportion of the adult population suffers from sleep problems, and many of them potentially having chronic insomnia.
A growing body of medical evidence links inadequate sleep with anger, anxiety, and sadness.
A study on the impact of Heartfulness Meditation on insomnia brings cheer to chronic insomniacs as they stay awake to greet 'World Sleep Day' on March 16, 2018.
Kamlesh Patel, the fourth global guide of Heartfulness, said, "Sleep is very essential to help maintain mood, memory, and cognitive performance. Daytime alertness and memory are impaired by loss of sleep, especially when it is sustained over a few nights. For many, meditation has become a mainstream practice over the years and the study on its impact on alleviating sleep-related diseases is very encouraging."
An ongoing research study at the WellSpan York Hospital, USA, to assess the impact of Heartfulness Meditation on insomnia, has shown promising results.
Twenty-eight participants diagnosed with chronic insomnia completed an eight-week study involving the practice of Heartfulness Meditation as an intervention to help with insomnia. The pre- and post-Insomnia Severity Index (ISI) scores were measured.
The mean ISI scores reduced from 20.6 to 10.8, almost by half and the result was statistically significant (p<0.001). Interestingly, some of the patients have been able to come off their pharmacological treatments as a result of the practice.
Dr. Raja Amarnath, a senior consultant at Apollo Hospitals, Chennai, said, "In different studies, approximately 25% of adults mentioned that their sleep was not satisfactory. At least 10-15% have symptoms of sleep deprivation, negatively affecting their daytime work, while 6-10% meet the diagnostic criteria for insomnia. While the situation is quite alarming there is hope beyond medication. The results of the study on the effect of Heartfulness Meditation points towards the alleviating effect of meditation on sleep and sleep-related disorders."
Positive effects of meditation on sleep
Medical literature supports the practice of meditation for enhancing well-being, and several studies have shown that meditation can fight insomnia and improve quality of sleep, in turn, improving health. According to the National Science Foundation in Virginia, our brain produces 50,000 thoughts per day. Ninety-five per cent of these thoughts are repetitive, restrictive, and a spiral of anxieties and worries about the past and future.
Dr. Raja Amarnath comments: "Even though the body is at rest, the mind cannot unwind. This is the fundamental cause of stress leading to sleep disturbances. Training our minds to meditate by ignoring thoughts brings us to the awareness of the present and creates a balanced state within, thereby removing stress."
During sleep, there is a reduction in heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate and minute ventilation, and there is decreased oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide elimination. Meditation induces similar physiological changes, except that the person remains alert although the physical body goes into a state of deep relaxation.
Meditation augments the synthesis of melatonin in the pineal gland, a hormone that regulates the natural sleep cycle. Stress inhibits the production of melatonin. Increased risk of breast cancer is linked to the reduction in melatonin levels due to sleep deprivation. By enhancing melatonin levels, meditation reduces this risk. Soon after beginning a meditation practice, many people have reported better quality of sleep as well as needing less sleep.
Alleviating anxiety and depression
Meditation regulates the mind, directly reducing anxiety and depression. This effect is noted in both beginners and advanced meditators. Brainwaves are stimulated in the same way during meditation, relaxation and various sleep states, including deep sleep, boosting the Alpha, Theta and Delta waves and reducing the stress-associated Beta waves.
Positive effects on ailments that affect sleep
Meditation has proven effective in the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of hypertension, ischemic heart disease, bronchial asthma, COPD, anxiety neurosis, depression, cancer, certain degenerative diseases and many chronic pain conditions. Sleep disturbances are common in these conditions, which are then also improved by meditation. Meditation also influences the cognitive behavioral and emotional aspects of these patients, thus improving their overall prognosis.
Meditative practices thus help to integrate the brain functions, regulate the various physiological mechanisms resulting in a state of mental, emotional and physical well-being.
The path of the heart: Heartfulness enhances sleep quality
Heartfulness Meditation is a simple heart-based meditation practice that helps with stress, burnout and emotional wellness. The simplified Raja Yoga meditation techniques of Heartfulness are designed to suit our modern-day hectic world, and are effective in improving sleep and quality of life when practiced regularly.
In Heartfulness Meditation, we rest the mind on the heart with one single thought, ignoring all other thoughts as uninvited guests. Regular practice of this very act trains the mind to pursue only necessary thoughts and ignore all unwanted ones. This results in true regulation of the mind, where the mind is guided by the heart and unwanted thoughts are reduced.
When we are stressed, it takes longer to fall asleep and often it is disturbed sleep. In deep meditation on the heart, we dive deep into the finer layers of consciousness, physical awareness is lost, and we are less affected by thoughts, emotions and stress. Sleep can be instantaneous, deep and undisturbed for a balanced mind that is trained through regular meditation.