Flipping the Switch for a Good Night’s Sleep


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Written by: Melissa Felteau, MAdEd, Lead Meditation Therapist, Rehab Research Group, Lakehead University

The media might have a love affair with reporting on the benefits of mindfulness interventions improving lives.  But recent research on meditation and emotional regulation may help us to understand what keeps us up worrying at night.  A 2012 study, “The Mindful Brain and Emotion Regulation in Mood Disorders” by Farb, Anderson & Segal reported in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry might help to shed light on this maddening sleep-depriving phenomenon.

Without resorting to scientific reductionism, the brain’s normal default mode is thought to be located in the cerebral cortex – the part of the brain referred to as the “narrative mind”.  As mindfulness pioneer Jon Kabat-Zinn, affectionately calls self-referential generation “the story of me in the key of me”.  Twilight ruminations often replay the events of the day over and over again hoping for problem-solving and relief which does not occur.

However, the act of meditation flips one out of the “narrative mind” and into the “experiencing mind” located in the lateral cortex.  Practitioners of mindfulness meditation embody a “turning toward” momentary experience without judgment leading to compassion and acceptance.  This increased attentional control helps to reduce the habitual patterns of evaluation therefore reducing cognitive rumination and perhaps result in a better night’s sleep.

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