Senior Vipassana Meditation practitioners exhibit distinct REM sleep organization from that of novice meditators and healthy controls

Int Rev Psychiatry. 2016 Jun;28(3):279-87. doi: 10.3109/09540261.2016.1159949. Epub 2016 Apr 8.


The present study is aimed to ascertain whether differences in meditation proficiency alter rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep) as well as the overall sleep-organization. Whole-night polysomnography was carried out using 32-channel digital EEG system. 20 senior Vipassana meditators, 16 novice Vipassana meditators and 19 non-meditating control subjects participated in the study. The REM sleep characteristics were analyzed from the sleep-architecture of participants with a sleep efficiency index >85%. Senior meditators showed distinct changes in sleep-organization due to enhanced slow wave sleep and REM sleep, reduced number of intermittent awakenings and reduced duration of non-REM stage 2 sleep. The REM sleep-organization was significantly different in senior meditators with more number of REM episodes and increased duration of each episode, distinct changes in rapid eye movement activity (REMA) dynamics due to increased phasic and tonic activity and enhanced burst events (sharp and slow bursts) during the second and fourth REM episodes. No significant differences in REM sleep organization was observed between novice and control groups. Changes in REM sleep-organization among the senior practitioners of meditation could be attributed to the intense brain plasticity events associated with intense meditative practices on brain functions.

Keywords: REM burst; REM sleep; Vipassana meditation; phasic and tonic REM; rapid eye movement activity (REMA)..

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electroencephalography
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meditation*
  • Middle Aged
  • Polysomnography
  • Sleep, REM / physiology*