People who practice Vipassana meditation experience high-quality sleep and enjoy the health benefits associated with it, according to two studies presented at the 8th Asian Sleep Research Society Congress, held in September 2014 in Kovalam, Kerala, India.

In the Vipassana tradition, a practitioner learns to be a nonjudgmental witness, observing sensory perceptions, thoughts and feelings as they arise, without reacting to or engaging with them. Vipassana meditators experienced more REM sleep, more sleep cycles and enhanced activity in the parasympathetic nervous system—associated with rest and restoration—than control subjects who did not meditate (in one study) and novice meditators (in the second study).

Studies show that long-term mindful meditators experience changes in both grey and white matter of the brain. Researchers from the National Institute of
Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bangalore, India, and the Gadag Institute of Medical Sciences in Karnataka, India, suggest that these changes may explain the better sleep organization and enhanced sleep quality observed in study subjects. The symposia abstracts are available in Sleep and Biological Rhythms (2014; 12; 235-68; doi: 10.1111/sbr.12080).

For an overview of research findings on meditation’s effects on the brain, see “Meditation: Push-Ups for the Brain” in the January 2013 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal.