Solutions for Overcoming Sleepless Nights


Everybody has an occasional sleepless night, but sleep disturbances among older adults are especially common, as part of the aging process.

In fact, an estimated 50 percent of people age 55 or older suffer from a sleep problem, including not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep, compared with when they were younger.

Poor sleep can be a concern because it deprives your body of the rest it requires to re-energize physically, mentally and emotionally. It sometimes carries over to the next day, causing fatigue, depression and a diminished quality of life. Medications can help but are temporary fixes and can cause daytime side effects and the risk of drug dependency.

So, what is the best way to overcome sleep issues?

Researchers at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior have found that a relatively simple mind-body tool called mindfulness meditation can improve sleep quality in older adults suffering from moderate sleep complaints.

Meditation dates back thousands of years and involves a mind-calming practice that focuses on breathing and awareness of the present moment.

Mindful meditation can reduce stress, improve attention, boost the immune system, reduce emotional reactivity and promote a general sense of health and well-being.

Other Semel Institute research has shown that tai chi, a Chinese martial art based on slow movement and meditation, can also improve sleep quality in older adults. They found that participants who combined tai chi with mindful meditation showed greater improvement in their quality of sleep than their counterparts. Besides better sleep quality, the combined-activity group also reported fewer insomnia symptoms, less fatigue and less depression.

The UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center offers programs and classes on mindful meditation. To learn more about the center, visit: