SLEEP IS AS CRITICAL AND IMPORTANT TO OUR WELLBEING as food, water, shelter, or breathing. The crucial role of sleep on our mental and physical health is now known thanks to profound scientific studies and research. Yet, as a society, we don’t always treat it this way. Research after research suggests that a large percentage of the population is sleep-deprived not because they don’t want to, but because of various biological reasons and lifestyle choices.
So, what can we do to sleep like a toddler?
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For all those who are wishing to find some very effective way to sleep better, let me help you with the most powerful tool which I have used myself- Meditation.
Don’t believe me! Let’s dive in and see for yourself.
Meditation and Sleep: The Scientific Connection.
In an interesting study which was published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2015, researchers tried to find out the impact of mindfulness meditation on sleep.
49 middle-aged and older adults with some sleep issues participated in the study.
They were divided into two groups.
The first group of 24 individuals was subjected to a two-hour-a-week meditation program and the other 25 were subjected to a sleep hygiene education program, teaching them ways to improve their sleeping habits such as relaxation before sleep, right sleep behavior, and others.
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The study lasted 6 weeks and both the groups met once a week for just two hours.
According to the findings, the meditation group showed significant improvement in their sleep quality, had fewer insomnia symptoms, and had less daytime fatigue at the end of the six-week session.
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A similar 2020 study was published in the ‘Journal of Community Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives.’ In this study, 32 adult patients suffering from chronic insomnia were treated to a combination of regular heartfulness meditation and sleep hygiene habits for 8 weeks.
After eight weeks there were a significant decrease in the participant’s mean Insomnia Severity Index (ISI) scores from 20.9 to 10.4.
Out of the 32 patients, 24 were initially on sedatives and medications. Amazingly, just after 8 weeks of the practice, 21 of those 24 patients had either reduced their medicine dosage or had fully stopped.
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Meditation and Melatonin.
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain. It is also known as the “sleep hormone.” Once produced it is secreted into the bloodstream to all areas of the body.
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The release of this hormone is related to the time of the day, increasing with darkness and decreasing with light. Night-time levels of melatonin are at least 10 times higher than daytime.
Hence the name “darkness hormone.”
As a result, it helps maintain and regulate your body’s rhythm, known as the circadian rhythm– your body’s internal clock. Thus, it synchronizes and orientates your sleep-wake cycle. So, melatonin helps your body facilitate and regulate sleep.
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A Study Highlighting Relation Between Meditation and Melatonin.
In another fascinating study, a research team from the University of Massachusetts studied the relationship between meditation and melatonin. The goal was to observe whether mediation had any impact on melatonin levels.
Out of 16 women volunteers, 8 women regularly meditated and the remaining 8 did not meditate. The researchers collected urine samples from all the participants in the middle of the night to check for 6-sulfatoxymelatonin.
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To their surprise, the women who meditated regularly had much higher melatonin levels than those who didn’t.
Another research from Rutgers University revealed some amazing results. They discovered that melatonin levels in experienced meditators almost doubled to that of non-meditators. In a few cases, it increased by an incredible 300%.
So, it is just one of the many reasons why mediators experience immunity to sleep disturbances and insomnia.
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How Meditation Impacts Pineal Gland. Controls and Regulates Melatonin.
Melatonin is produced by the “feel good” amino acid called tryptophan. The tryptophan is a key player in the production of serotonin (one of the four feel-good hormones). Tryptophan is the precursor of serotonin and serotonin is the precursor of melatonin. Tryptophan stimulates the pineal gland which then secretes melatonin.
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The pineal gland in eastern spiritual philosophy is referred to as the “third eye,” or the “seat of the soul” and is attributed to enlightenment, awakening, and extrasensory perception. This gland has always been associated with the ‘agya chakra’ the sixth primary chakra (energy centers) in our body.
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One amazing discovery is that our brain produces a neurotransmitter known as beta-carbolines secreted from the pineal gland. But this secretion happens only in the night and further breaks down into melatonin.
In our Eastern yogic physiology and culture, people direct the flow of energy or prana to the pineal gland while meditating. So, meditation increases melatonin levels by augmenting the synthesis in the pineal gland.
In one study melatonin levels in Vipassana meditators were significantly higher (approx. 300 pg ml) than non-meditators (65 pg ml).
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A Logic to Think About.
Let me ask you a question!
In meditation do you close your eyes? Yes!
Now understand this- When meditators close their eyes, they are withdrawing from the light source, thus the amount of light that their optic nerves receive significantly diminishes. This is important to understand because when light is inhibited, the pineal gland gets activated and releases melatonin.
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Also, it is a scientifically known fact that one important cause of sleep problems arises from stress, tension, and worries. Sleep disorders are very closely tied to stress. However, the opposite of stress response is relaxation response and meditation is one of the most powerful tools and techniques to evoke this relaxation response. This relaxation response helps calm stress and tension.
So, scientifically it is a proven fact now that meditation increases melatonin- the sleep hormone triggers relaxation response by reducing stress, increasing serotonin, decreasing Insomnia Severity Index (ISI), and activating parts of the brain that control sleep.
So, in scientific terminology, meditation helps lower blood pressure, and heart rate by invoking the parasympathetic nervous system and encouraging deep breathing, thereby increasing the likelihood of a good night quality sleep.
By reading this blog till the very end it’s almost quite clear that you’re seriously contemplating and thinking of practicing meditation. So, what are you waiting for? Just commit yourself from today and make meditation an integral part of your daily productive habits and see yourself dozing off like a child.
Over to you now! Kindly connect by commenting below and sharing your experience, thoughts and opinions on the power of meditation.