Book Review: Mindfulness for Insomnia

book cover: Mindfulness fo rInsomnia by Catherine Polan Orzech and William Moorcroft

Mindfulness for Insomnia: A Four-Week Guided Program to Relax Your Body, Calm Your Mind, and Get the Sleep You Need by Catherine Polan Orzech and William H. Moorcroft lays out a day-by-day 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.  Other than the sleep education provided in the first part of the book, the book is not something that’s intended to simply be read.

The book is based on a method called Guided Mindfulness with Acceptance Treatment for Insomnia (GMATI), which operates under the principle that it’s more effective to teach people to accept their experience of poor sleep than it is to try to directly bring about changes to their sleep patterns.  It draws on ideas from mindful self-compassion and mindfulness-based stress relief.

The first part of the book is devoted to understanding the fundamentals of sleep and the “mental threats” that tend to perpetuate insomnia.

The majority of the book is devoted to the GMATI method.  It’s a four week program, and there is a guided medication 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 supposed to be done during the daytime, and 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.

In the appendix there is a schedule for tapering off sleeping pills after using GMATI, with the comment that you must consult your doctor before going ahead with it.  It did not specify which particular “sleeping pills” should follow this regimen.  The inclusion of this concerned me, as neither of the authors are medical doctors.  Plus coming off of trazodone is a very different thing from coming off a benzo 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.

I received a reviewer copy of this book from


You can find my other book reviews here.

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16 thoughts on “Book Review: Mindfulness for Insomnia

  1. says:

    Well, you have given me another book that I added to my growing list. LOL! Insomnia has been a nemesis of mine for several years. I’m on Trazadone, Hydroxyzine, Clonazepam, Quetiapine, as well as Melatonin to knock me out.
    The thing is that I meditate twice a day. Once in the morning and again in the earlier part of the evening (9 pm).
    Although your review of this book might not have had high ratings, I still may look into it regardless. I loathe taking all these medications. It’s a wonder I can function at all. Plus, I take Lamictal and just literally started on Cymbalta for the overwhelming depressive cycle I’m in the midst of.
    I would love to get off all these medications if I were able to simply follow the book and its meditations. But, naturally, check with my psychiatrist first.
    Thank you for sharing!!!

    • ashleyleia says:

      My biggest issue with the book (aside from the inappropriate recommendations about medications) was that the style of mindfulness practice just isn’t what works for me, but that’s not to say it won’t work well for other people.

  2. Meg says:

    Great book review! I was intrigued that the authors discuss being accepting of your sleeping issues. For years, I’d say the years during and after college, if I didn’t “have” to get up for something, I’d sleep as late as possible. If there were enough consecutive days in which I could sleep in (like, say, five), then all of a sudden, I’d be staying up all night and sleeping all day, and it made me miserable. I was lonely and bored all night and wanted to be up with other people. But it felt as if there was nothing to be done about it. It happened once at Granny Franny’s house, and I was bored senseless. Then, she caught me downstairs in the middle of the night, using one of her throw blankets as I tried to read a book, and she threw a hissy fit because I was messing up her cleaning in the middle of the night. (Wow, geez, Grandma.) Then I took a walk as the sun came up, and I felt like a total failure because I’d been up all night, and I saw a barn owl.

    Anyway, I’ve come to see that (for me, but I would wager also for many people) medication is the only option. God bless Ambien. But yeah, I’m not too impressed by the sounds of this book. I’ve always thought that changing your thinking and your breathing to fall asleep is hogwash, almost designed to make it sound like, “Well, the problem’s your fault. You aren’t disciplined enough. Try harder.”

    • ashleyleia says:

      I think sometimes people do get trapped in thought patterns that perpetuate insomnia, but then there are people who just need meds. I can’t fall asleep without Seroquel.

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