Practitioners of vipassana meditation exhibit enhanced slow wave sleep and REM sleep states across different age groups

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Abstract

Intense meditation practices influence brain functions in different ways and at different levels. Earlier studies have shown that meditation practices help to organize sleep-wake behavior. In the present study, we evaluated the sleep architecture of vipassana meditators across different age groups. Whole-night polysomnography was carried out in healthy male subjects between 30 and 60 years of age from control (n = 46) and meditation (n = 45) groups. They were further divided into younger-(30–39 years), middle- (40–49 years), and older-aged (50–60 years) groups. Sleep variables were evaluated from subjects who had a sleep efficiency index more than 85%. The sleep architecture of vipassana meditators was different from that of control groups. Vipassana meditators showed enhanced slow wave sleep and rapid eye movement sleep states with an enhanced number of sleep cycles across all age groups. When compared to meditators, the control groups exhibited pro-nounced age-associated decrease in slow wave sleep states. Our study suggests that vipassana meditation helps to establish a proper sleep structure in old age, probably through its capacity to induce neuronal plasticity events leading to stronger network synchronization and cortical synaptic strengthening.

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Correspondence to Dr Bindu M. Kutty.

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Pattanashetty, R., Sathiamma, S., Talakkad, S. et al. Practitioners of vipassana meditation exhibit enhanced slow wave sleep and REM sleep states across different age groups. Sleep Biol. Rhythms 8, 34–41 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1479-8425.2009.00416.x

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Key words

  • REM sleep
  • sleep cycles
  • slow wave sleep
  • vipassana meditation