Book Review: Mindfulness for Insomnia

Mindfulness for Insomnia: A Four-Week Guided Program to Relax Your Body, Calm Your Mind, and Get the Sleep You Need by Catherine Polan Orzech and William H. Moorcroft lays out a day-by-day meditation program to facilitate sleep.

I’ll start off by saying that I read the book because I was curious about the method, but I didn’t actually practice it myself. Other than the sleep education provided in the first part of the book, the book is not something that’s intended to simply be read.

The book is based on a method called Guided Mindfulness with Acceptance Treatment for Insomnia (GMATI), which operates under the principle that it’s more effective to teach people to accept their experience of poor sleep than it is to try to directly bring about changes to their sleep patterns. It draws on ideas from mindful self-compassion and mindfulness-based stress relief.

The first part of the book is devoted to understanding the fundamentals of sleep and the “mental threats” that tend to perpetuate insomnia.

The majority of the book is devoted to the GMATI method. It’s a four week program, and there is a guided medication script for each week. There are recordings available online. Each week has a theme for the meditation, as well as specific sub-themes assigned to each day. After each meditation sessions, the authors suggest that you journal, including what you noticed in your mind, body, and mood.

The meditations are supposed to be done during the daytime, and it’s only in the fourth week that the mindfulness practice is incorporated into the nighttime.

The focus for week one is establishing a meditation practice, including being present in the moment and focusing on the breath. The authors write that “the breath is a friend, and is also a teacher. It is always teaching us how we can receive, and also how to let go.”

In week 2, the focus is on accepting and allowing sleep rather than trying to change it, and cultivating self-compassion. The breath also plays a big role here: “You are being nourished, rocked, and caressed by each breath.” I include these quotes about the breath because they’re quite reflective of the type of mindfulness practice described in this book.

Week 3 focuses on letting be and letting go, and not trying to push away negative thoughts about sleep. Week 4 aims to build confidence in your ability to sleep. Mindfulness is used during time in bed awake at night, as “you are learning a new way of being in bed when sleep eludes you”.

In the concluding chapter there is a neat little summary checklist to pull it all together.

In the appendix there is a schedule for tapering off sleeping pills after using GMATI, with the comment that you must consult your doctor before going ahead with it. It did not specify which particular “sleeping pills” should follow this regimen. The inclusion of this concerned me, as neither of the authors are medical doctors. Plus coming off of trazodone is a very different thing from coming off a benzo after 20 years. All things considered it just seemed irresponsible.

The book is clearly written and explains the various elements of the program well. Mindfulness can be practiced in various ways, and this book tends to focus on formal seated meditation with focus on the breath and that type of thing. It wouldn’t be my personal choice, but I think this could be a useful book for people who are interested in trying out that kind of practice.

I received a reviewer copy of this book from www.netgalley.com.

Originally published at http://mentalhealthathome.org on July 10, 2019.

Mental health blogger | Former MH nurse | Living with depression | Author of 3 books, latest is Managing the Depression Puzzle | mentalhealthathome.org

Mental health blogger | Former MH nurse | Living with depression | Author of 3 books, latest is Managing the Depression Puzzle | mentalhealthathome.org