10/24/2006 *New York Times* includes an article: “Performance:
Researchers Test Meditation’s Impact on Alertness” by Eric Nagourney.

Here’s the article:

Meditation is often credited with helping people feel more focused and
energetic, but are the benefits measurable?

A new study suggests that they are. When researchers tested the
alertness of volunteers, they found that the practice proved more
effective than naps, exercise or caffeine. The results were presented at
a recent conference of the Society for Neuroscience.

The researchers, led by Prashant Kaul of the University of Kentucky,
took 12 students who did not meditate and taught them the basics in two
short sessions.

Then, over a series of weeks, the students were asked to come in and
take a test devised to measure skills like reaction time. The tests
involved a series of visual cues on a display screen that the volunteers
had to react to by pushing the correct button.

The students were asked to take the tests in mid- to late afternoon,
when people tend to be sleepiest. They did so before and after 40
minutes of meditating, napping or exercising, or after taking caffeine.
Napping produced poor results, presumably because of “sleep inertia,”
the researchers said.

Caffeine helped, and exercise was unpredictable.

Earlier studies have found that people are awake while meditating but
that their brains undergo changes similar to patterns found in sleep.
Some studies have found that people who meditate a lot report sleeping
less, so the researchers were curious to see if meditation could serve
the same function as sleep. The results support the idea that it can.

In fact, when some of the students were asked to skip a night’s sleep
and then take the test, the researchers said, meditation was even more
helpful.

They said they did not know if caffeine and meditation combined would be
even better.

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