Single-session meditation in oncology outpatient clinic

Chaoul, A., et al. (2014). An Analysis of Meditation Consultations in an Integrative Oncology Outpatient Clinic. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 20(5), A86-A86.

From the Abstract. The majority of cancer patients use some complementary medicine modality. Mind-body practices, and especially meditation, are amongst the most utilized. Research shows that they help cancer patients manage psychological distress and control symptoms such as pain, nausea, and sleep disturbances. However, the effects of a single meditation session on self-reported symptoms, including physical, psychological and symptom distress in an outpatient setting, are largely unknown.

All patients [received] an individual meditation consultation (60 minute initial visits, and 30 minute follow-up visits). Our analysis included 81 meditation visits for 121 participants over 32 months. The [results] revealed a significant reduction from pre- to post-meditation session in physical, psychological, and symptom distress component scores. The greatest mean reductions for individual symptoms were for: Anxiety, Fatigue, Distress, Well Being, Sleep, and Pain; all changes reaching statistically and clinically significant thresholds.

Further research with a larger sample size is needed to better understand the symptoms that meditation can help control and the frequency of self-practice outside of the clinic to help maintain the long-term benefits.

Chronic insomnia patients

Hubbling, A., et al. (2014). How mindfulness changed my sleep: focus groups with chronic insomnia patients. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 14(1), 50. Full text.

Four themes were identified: the impact of mindfulness on sleep and motivation to adopt a healthy sleep lifestyle; benefits of mindfulness on aspects of life beyond sleep; challenges and successes in adopting mindfulness-based practices; and the importance of group sharing and support. Participants said they were not sleeping more, but sleeping better, waking more refreshed, feeling less distressed about insomnia, and better able to cope when it occurred.

Some participants experienced the course as a call to action, and for them, practicing meditation and following sleep hygiene guidelines became priorities. Motivation to sustain behavioral changes was reinforced by feeling physically better and more emotionally stable, and seeing others in the MBSR class improve. The body scan was identified as an effective tool to enable falling asleep faster. Participants described needing to continue practicing mindfulness to maintain benefits.

Association between acting with awareness and better sleep in cancer patients

Garland, S. N., Campbell, T., Samuels, C., & Carlson, L. E. (2013). Dispositional mindfulness, insomnia, sleep quality and dysfunctional sleep beliefs in post-treatment cancer patients. Personality and Individual Differences. In press.

Abstract. Dispositional mindfulness, or the tendency to be more mindful in daily life, has been associated with better psychological functioning and reduced overall distress. This study investigated the degree to which dispositional mindfulness was associated with sleep disturbances in cancer patients with insomnia. Further, we examined whether levels of mindfulness moderated the relationship between stress levels, mood disturbance, insomnia severity, sleep quality and dysfunctional sleep beliefs.

Participants (N = 111) were adults who had been previously treated for cancer and currently met diagnostic criteria for insomnia. Higher levels of acting with awareness, non-judging and non-reacting were associated with better sleep and psychological outcomes.

Despite these significant associations, mindfulness facets did not significantly moderate the relationship between stress, mood and sleep outcomes. This negative finding raises the possibility that increased mindfulness may not act directly to improve psychological outcomes, but rather through a series of other cognitive and affective changes. Our results emphasize the importance of addressing mood symptoms and stress appraisals as predictors of sleep disturbance in cancer patients.

Reduces perceived stress in Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers

Innes, K. E., et al. (2012). The Effects of Meditation on Perceived Stress and Related Indices of Psychological Status and Sympathetic Activation in Persons with Alzheimer’s Disease and Their Caregivers: A Pilot Study. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Go to journal and click on “Full Text.”

Conclusions (from the Abstract): Findings of this exploratory trial suggest that an 8-week meditation program* may offer an acceptable and effective intervention for reducing perceived stress and improving certain domains of sleep, mood, and memory in adults with cognitive   impairment and their caregivers.


Influence on cortisol and sleep

Brand S, Holsboer-Trachsler E, Naranjo JR, & Schmidt S. (2012). Influence of mindfulness practice on cortisol and sleep in long-term and short-term meditators. [Abstract]. Neuropsychobiology, 65(3):109-18.

There is growing scientific interest in assessing the biological correlates of non-pharmacological interventions such as mindfulness. Examinations of the beneficial effects of mindfulness on hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenocortical system activity (HPA SA) and sleep are sparse.

The aim of the present study was to explore the impact of long- and short-term meditation experience on HPA SA and sleep. There were 20 participants, 9 of whom had long-term experience in meditation (mean = 264 months) and 11 novices. Novices underwent an 8-week course in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), and cortisol samples were taken in the lab at the beginning and end of the course. To assess the cortisol awakening response, 4 morning cortisol samples were collected. Sleep and mindfulness were assessed by self-rating questionnaires.

Among participants with long-term meditation experience, morning cortisol decreased with length of experience. For novices, after an 8-week introductory MBSR course, morning cortisol levels had decreased, while both sleep and self-attribution of mindfulness significantly improved. Cortisol levels did not, however, change between the beginning and end of individual MBSR sessions. The pattern of results lends support to the view that MBSR/meditation has a favorable influence both on biomarkers of stress regulation, such as cortisol secretion, and on sleep.