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Live, Online Mindfulness Training Found to Reduce Employee Sleep Problems and Chronic Pain, in Addition to Stress

By Kevin Renner

Are you getting enough sleep? Probably not. And are you suffering from nagging pains? Probably. It’s part of living in today’s hyper-stressed out world—for you, your firm, and your clients. And it comes at a considerable cost. Fortunately both can be improved, without drugs.

Improved sleep quality and reduced pain are two of the benefits that mindfulness classes have brought to thousands of eMindful participants.

Our last blog shared our research that showed how dramatically mindfulness training has reduced stress. In a sample of more than 1,200 employees from around the world, in several dozen companies, stress was reduced by 29 percent. That same research project showed meaningful improvements in sleep quality and pain levels.

Since 2007, eMindful has provided live, online, mindfulness-based programs for employers to offer to their employees. Weekly classes last for an hour, and typically run 10 to 12 weeks in length. We began measuring outcomes in 2010, using carefully selected, scientifically validated instruments. Data has been collected and analyzed on a sample of more than 1,200 participants in our stress programs.

Our Analytics Team’s measured sleep habits, sleep quality and their result on daytime functioning using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), developed at the University of Pittsburgh. The PSQI measures uses seven component scores:

  1. Subjective sleep quality
  2. Sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep)
  3. Sleep duration
  4. Habitual sleep efficiency (the proportion of time in bed spent sleeping)
  5. Sleep disturbances
  6. Use of sleep medication
  7. Daytime dysfunction

Measured before taking an eMindful stress reduction course, the seven component scores (taken together) yielded a global score of 6.4. Every component score improved significantly after employees participated in an eMindful online stress reduction course. The highest improvements were seen in sleep latency, sleep duration, and daytime dysfunction. That reduction in daytime dysfunction means that employees found it easier to stay awake and had more energy to get things done.

The post-course global PSQI score fell to 5.1, representing a 20.3 percent improvement in overall sleep quality.

Pain management is not specifically addressed in eMindful stress and resiliency courses, yet pain levels improved significantly as participants learned the mind training. When asked to self-assess their pain on three separate scales, (pain at its worst in the last 24 hours, pain on average, and pain right now), course participants showed a significant decrease on all three scales. The total pain scores decreased from 7.8 to 6.5, nearly 17 percent.

Poor sleep and high levels of pain can dampen the concentration and productivity of your clients’ employees, and can contribute to poor overall health. Pain, meanwhile, is enormously costly to treat. An article in the Journal of Pain (August 2012) found that about 100 million U.S. adults are affected by chronic pain. It’s costly because it requires medical treatment and complicates treatment for other ailments. And like poor sleep, it lowers worker productivity. The total costs of pain (medical costs and lost productivity) ranged from $560 to $635 billion in 2010 dollars.

eMindful’s research findings from the employer world substantiate what the scientific research has found in recent years. And importantly, our follow-on analysis has found that the benefits continue, if not improve even further, one year after the courses have been taken.

Kevin Renner is Senior Vice President of eMindful.