Mindfulness for Insomnia by Catherine Polan Orzech and William H. Moorcroft lays out a day-by-day four-week meditation program to facilitate sleep.
I’ll start off by saying that I read the book because I was curious about the method, but I didn’t actually practice it myself. Aside from the sleep education in the first part of the book, the book isn’t intended to simply be read.
The book is based on a method called Guided Mindfulness with Acceptance Treatment for Insomnia (GMATI). It comes from the perspective that it’s more effective to teach people to accept their sleep experiences than to try to directly change their sleep patterns. It draws on ideas from mindful self-compassion and mindfulness-based stress relief.
The first part of the book focuses on the fundamentals of sleep and the “mental threats” that perpetuate insomnia.
Most of the book focuses on the GMATI method. It’s a four-week program, and there is a guided meditation script for each week. There are recordings available online. Each week has a theme for the meditation, as well as specific sub-themes assigned to each day. After each meditation session, the authors suggest that you journal, including what you noticed in your mind, body, and mood.
The meditations are done during the daytime; it’s only in the fourth week that the mindfulness practice is incorporated into the nighttime.
The focus for week one is establishing a meditation practice, including being present in the moment and focusing on the breath. The authors write that “the breath is a friend, and is also a teacher. It is always teaching us how we can receive, and also how to let go.”
In week 2, the focus is on accepting and allowing sleep rather than trying to change it, and cultivating self-compassion. The breath also plays a big role here: “You are being nourished, rocked, and caressed by each breath.” I include these quotes about the breath because they’re quite reflective of the type of mindfulness practice described in this book.
Week 3 focuses on letting be and letting go, and not trying to push away negative thoughts about sleep. Week 4 aims to build confidence in your ability to sleep. Mindfulness is used during time in bed awake at night, as “you are learning a new way of being in bed when sleep eludes you”.
In the concluding chapter, there is a neat little summary checklist to pull it all together.
The appendix includes a schedule for tapering off sleeping pills after using GMATI, cautioning that you must consult your doctor first. It didn’t specify which particular “sleeping pills” should follow this regimen. The inclusion of this concerned me, as neither of the authors is a medical doctor. Plus coming off of trazodone is a very different thing from coming off a benzodiazepine after 20 years. All things considered, it just seemed irresponsible.
The book is clearly written and explains the various elements of the program well. Mindfulness can be practiced in various ways, and this book tends to focus on formal seated meditation with focus on the breath and that type of thing. It wouldn’t be my personal choice, but I think this could be a useful book for people who are interested in trying out that kind of practice.
Mindfulness for Insomnia is available on Amazon (affiliate link).
I received a reviewer copy of this book from NetGalley.
There’s more on sleep-related issues in the post What Is… Sleep and Dreaming.
Sleep Better: The Little Book of Sleep is a mini-ebook that covers a range of strategies, both medical and non-medical, to help you get the best sleep you can. You can find it on the Resources page.