Is TM a cure for insomnia?
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi presented his first major public lecture on Transcendental Meditation in the USA some 55 years ago. He emphasised the importance of this one technique in developing human consciousness to its fullest extent and achieving enlightenment in this lifetime. No surprise then that he was taken aback the following morning to see the headline in a major Los Angeles newspaper: “Yogi Discovers Cure For Insomnia”.
His disappointment was that the publication had settled for promotion of what Maharishi felt to be a minor side-benefit in favour of the long-term holistic results of TM practice. However it is the role of a journalist to at first attract the attention of the reading public. What Maharishi came to realise was that many people in the West were so stressed that their bodies could not efficiently perform the simple task of achieving a full night’s sleep. Hence that headline most likely caused a lot of readers to take notice of the article. A biological requirement for normal functioning of the nervous system, sleep is one of the guardians of overall health.
Normalise rest and activity
Sleep disturbances are among the most common ailments that doctors treat. This is evidenced by the tremendous number of sleeping pills consumed by the public. Actually, such drugs have their own hazards, including addiction. But they also limit the quality of sleep by depriving a person of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Since insomniacs are invariably overworked and overtired, sleep disturbances are clearly related to stress.
To allow insomniacs to obtain their vitally necessary night’s rest, some natural means is necessary to correct the imbalances created in the nervous system by fatigue, strain and tension. This is where the twice-daily practice of Transcendental Meditation comes into the picture. With its ability to normalise the cycle of rest and activity by reducing tension and also making the sleep process more efficient.
“Better sleep is usually one of the first benefits people notice after starting the practice.”
During TM the body experiences a level of rest that is about twice as deep as sleep. But it is important to note that this is not a substitute for the sleeping process because it is a different kind of rest. What is happening during that 20 minutes of TM practice is an all-round effort by the body’s self-repair mechanisms to carry out repairs and adjustments to the central nervous system that are not possible to do at any other time. This helps to make the functioning of the whole body more efficient. This efficiency extends to the sleeping process. As an experienced TM instructor I can say that better sleep is usually one of the first benefits people notice after starting the practice, often from the very first night onwards.
Fall asleep faster
Among the wide range of scientific research which started on the TM programme in the 1970’s was a Canadian project (University of Alberta) which measured the change in sleep onset time after people had begun to meditate. Remarkably it was found that those people who on average had been taking 75 minutes to go to sleep each night had this reduced to about 12 minutes on average within the first month of learning TM.
The other area with problem sleep is when people find themselves waking during the night with a churning mind and finding it hard to return to their blessed repose. This sleep disruption tends to disappear also not too long after beginning TM. I can tell you that some people actually sleep longer for a little while due to the body processing a backlog of tiredness from inefficient sleep in their lives. After that initial period they find they can get by on up to an hour less sleep a night. In my case this was experienced in waking up an hour earlier than before and feeling a lot brighter when I did.
This daytime ‘brightness’ was studied in research studies in a business setting back in the 70s. Pre and post-testing showed that after three months of meditation, the TM group showed a 39 percent reduction of fatigue during the work day and a 48 percent reduction after work. A matched control group measured a slight increase in fatigue. Academy of Management Journal 17 (1974).
A psychiatrist once told me that an inability to sleep properly can manifest up to 260 separate medical symptoms. Just another reason for the presence of a simple, natural technique such as TM in your life to restore natural functioning of body and mind and to get on with the enjoyment of life.