The Effects of Morning vs. Evening Mindfulness Meditation on Sleep, Anxiety, and Decentering: A Pilot Analysis

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According to the CDC, most children and about 1 in 3 adults in the United States fail to reach their age group recommended quantity of sleep. Recently, non-pharmacological sleep aids, such as meditation, have gained popularity. However, to our knowledge there is no research data that compares sleep metrics or psychological well-being between those that meditate in the morning vs. in the evening. This study aims to investigate the potential circadian-dependent effects of meditation timing and how it may influence metrics of sleep and psychological well-being. We hypothesized that those who meditate just before sleep would have improved sleep parameters and self-reported feelings of psychological well-being when compared to those that meditate in the morning. Sixteen college students participated in the study, eight who meditated in the morning (5M; 3F) after waking and eight who meditated in the evening (4M; 4F) just before going to sleep. Participants were asked to wear an Actiwatch Spectrum PRO to evaluate physical activity and sleep throughout the recording periods. The first phase of the protocol consisted of a 4-day (Monday-Thursday) baseline recording period where total sleep time (TST) and sleep efficiency measures were recorded. Participants were instructed to not meditate during the baseline period. During the 4-day intervention period which occurred the following week (Monday-Thursday), participants were randomized to a 24-minute pre-sleep or morning mindfulness meditation intervention from the app Insight Timer. At the conclusion of both baseline and intervention time periods (on Friday of each respective week), participants were instructed to complete a state-trait anxiety inventory (STAI), a Five Facts of Mindfulness Questionnaire, and a Decentering Questionnaire. Means were considered to be significantly different when p < 0.05. The acute meditation protocols did not significantly change TST from baseline in the morning (6.7 ± 0.2 vs. 6.8 ± 0.2 hours) or evening (6.9 ± 0.3 vs. 7.2 ± 0.2 hours) meditators. Likewise, sleep efficiency was not significantly changed in either group. However, there was a significant decrease in both state and trait anxiety (baseline vs. treatment, p < 0.02 for both), and a significant increase in the five facets of mindfulness and ability to decenter (baseline vs. treatment, p < 0.01 for both). Our preliminary results suggest that acute meditation can help to improve several measures of psychological well-being whether it is done in the morning or evening. Further investigation within our own study and from others may help to better understand whether evening meditation can offer specific sleep benefits.

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FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology