Does Meditation Put You to Sleep? Sleep Meditation Effect on Sleep Quality and Length

            Most adults have trouble falling asleep, and often experience the negative effects of sleep deprivation during the day (Ford et al., 2015). The effects of sleep deprivation can cause many adverse symptoms like daytime sleepiness and decreased vigilance (Devoto et al., 1999). One of the most impactful effects of poor sleep quality is decreased memory consolidation (Backhaus et al., 2006). Memory consolidation is especially important for students who are acquiring new information constantly. If sleep is so important for students, why do so few get the correct amount?

            Around 60% of college students report getting poor quality sleep (Lund et al., 2010). This means that around 60% of college students are not functioning at their highest scholarly potential. There are many reasons why students do not get enough sleep: work, school, social life, drugs and alcohol, family, etc. As a student myself, I feel that sometimes there is not enough hours in the day to get everything done. Thus, sleep is often sacrificed. However, there is so much irony to this statement. If students are trying to succeed in their classes, then they need sleep in order to completely consolidate their memories.

            There have been many interventions that provide increased self-reported sleep quality. Dowdell and Clayton (2019) discovered from their study that most college students sleep worse when they actively use their cell phone before bed. Pollak and Bright (2003) determined that higher consumption of caffeine decreased the participants hours spent asleep. Thus, sleep could improve for some students by incorporating a ‘no-technology an hour before bed’ rule or try to limit their caffeine intake. Another solution some students use is taking sleep medication, most commonly melatonin. Melatonin has been shown to increase sleep quantity and allow participants to wake up less during the night (Rose & Kahan, 2001). However, in the same study participants that were given melatonin compared to a placebo were exceptionally groggier and less alert during the day (Rose & Kahan, 2001). These are not symptoms students desire when they are trying to focus in class. For some students limiting their caffeine intake, not using their digital devices close to bedtime, or being less vigilant during the day are sacrifices they are not willing to make to improve their sleep quality and length.

Mindfulness interventions, such as meditation, have been shown to increase sleep quality in participants (Gutman et al., 2017; Ong et al., 2008). These interventions are a great alternative to more demanding sleep interventions because guided meditation can be as short as 1 minute long. Mindfulness can be especially useful for people who feel they have trouble falling asleep because of racing thoughts or the inability to quiet their mind (Shallcross, et al., 2018). There has also been evidence that mindfulness can help with stress reduction, increased mindfulness, and enhancement of well-being (Eberth & Sedlmeier, 2012). These positive effects provide other benefits besides just improved sleep. The combination of meditation and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to increase quality and quantity of sleep for participants with insomnia (Ong et al., 2008). Compared to a specialized sleep pillow, sleep mediation had a greater impact on total number of hours asleep (Gutman et al., 2017). The meditation in this study was based off yoga nidraprinciples, indicating that this sleep meditation had a focus on sleep and wakefulness (Gutman et al., 2017). These studies demonstrate that mindfulness meditation has the ability to be an effective sleep aid.

Yet, do the guided sleep mediations advertised on free applications (apps) have the same impact as the guided meditations used in these studies? To date, there is not a study that utilizes easily accessible sleep mediation programs. An example of this kind of sleep meditation program would be free to use guided meditations on apps advertised for smart devices, such as Insight Timer or Calm. There is potential these programs are not as high quality as the pre-recorded and vetted sleep meditation used these in studies. Thus, I propose the following research question: Will sleep quality and quantity increase according to the Pillow iPhone app when listening to the Insight Timer’s Yoga Nidra For Sleep for 22 minutes every night for one week?



            A total of 10 college students will be recruited for this study. This sample size is deemed adequate for a repeated measures t-test based on a power analysis with study parameters set to α = .05 and power = 0.8. Additionally, prior sleep intervention research has utilized a similar sample size of n = 11 (Mah et al., 2011). A convenience sample of college students will be utilized as a non-probability sampling method to obtain individuals who are easily available and willing to participant (Jhangiani et al., 2019).


            The Insight Timer’s Yoga Nidra For Sleep will be administered to participants for 22 minutes each night. This cell phone app will be utilized as a mindfulness-based tool in the hopes of increasing participant’s sleep quality and duration. Specifically, this app is a guided meditation that helps people connect to their mind and body in an effort to slow down thoughts and ease the mind to sleep. Next, sleep quality and quantity will be measured using the Pillow iPhone app. This app measures sleep by tracking movement and sound using an Apple watch and Apple iPhone.


            This study will utilize at repeated measures pre-test post-test design. Differences in sleep quality and quantity will be analyzed using a repeated measures t-test.


            Upon Institutional Review Board approval, students from MSU Denver will be contacted by email. Students who agree to participate will review and sign a consent form. Participants will track their quality and quantity of sleep using the Pillow iPhone app for one week to obtain a baseline measure. Next, participants will track their sleep for one week while completing the Yoga Nidra for Sleep guided meditation every night before bed. Participants will record their results and submit them by email to the principal investigator. Upon completion of the study, participants will be sent a debriefing form which thanks them for participation and explains the purpose of the study. Participants will be asked if they would like to see the results of the study once data collection has been completed.


Backhaus, J., Junghanns, K., Born, J., Hohaus, K., Faasch, F., & Hohagen, F. (2006). Impaired declarative memory consolidation during sleep in patients with primary insomnia: Influence of sleep architecture and nocturnal cortisol release. Biological Psychiatry, 60(12), 1324-1330.

Dowdell, E. B., & Clayton, B. Q. (2019). Interrupted sleep: College students sleeping with technology. Journal of American College Health, 67(7), 640-646.

Eberth, J., & Sedlmeier, P. (2012). The effects of mindfulness meditation: A meta-analysis. Mindfulness, 3, 174-189.

Ford, E. S., Cunningham, T. J., Giles, W. H., & Croft, J. B. (2015). Trends in insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness among US adults from 2002 to 2012. Sleep Medicine, 16(3), 372-378.

Jhangiani, R. S., Chiang, I. A., Cuttler, C., & Leighton, D. C. (2019). Research Methods in Psychology (4th Ed.). Creative Commons Attribution.

Mah, C. D., Mah, K. E., Kezirian, E. J., & Dement, W. C. (2011). Effects of sleep extension on the athletic performance of collegiate basketball players. Sleep, 34(7), 943-950.

Montoye, A., Montoye, L., & Connolly, C. (2019). Sleep like a baby: A case study examining objectively measured newborn and parental sleep patterns. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 51, 367.

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