Imagine a country where we no longer have to depend on medication to help manage depression, chronic pain, or insomnia.
Lately, I’ve been seeing a trend of studies that are showing how mindfulness is just as effective as side-effect loaded medications. This latest study, conducted by Cynthia Gross, PhD and her colleagues from the College of Pharmacy at the University of Minnesota, has found some inspiring evidence that mindfulness may be just as powerful as the insomnia prescription medication, Lunesta.
This randomized, controlled trial was conducted at the University of Minnesota’s health center where 30 adults, diagnosed with insomnia, were split into two groups. 20 participants took an 8 week MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction) training course, and 10 participants were put on a daily regimen of 3mg of eszopiclone (Lunesta).
The folks in the mindfulness course had one 2.5 hour session a week for eight weeks, one full day retreat, and were provided with homework assignments designed to help them stay focused on their mindfulness practices.
Participants’ quality of sleep was measured using the Insomnia Severity Index, the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, and sleep diaries. These tests were performed before and after the initial 8 weeks and then again 3 months after the study.
Results show that mindfulness and the sleeping medication had comparable results on several measures − total sleep time, how long it took for participants to fall asleep, and sleep efficiency (percent of time spent asleep compared to total time in bed).
In fact, after 8 weeks of training, the MBSR group fell asleep more quickly than the medication group and this was still true at the 3 month follow-up. What’s more, some of the improvements in quality of sleep continued to rise as time passed.
The more we show the value of mindfulness, the more willing people may be to try an alternative that comes without overwhelming healthcare costs and the burdens of medications.
(Please note: this DOES NOT mean that anyone currently taking medication should stop doing so. Healthcare providers should always be consulted before changing medication regimens).
What are your views on using alternative therapies over medication? Do you favor one over the other? Is there room for both? We’d like to hear your thoughts.