The use of mindfulness meditation for stress management has grown in recent years. Practising mindfulness meditation has been shown to help manage stress and decrease arousal, both of which are associated with difficulty sleeping; thus, mindfulness-based stress management programmes may have a positive impact on sleep. The effects of an 8-week mindfulness-based stress management programme on pre-sleep cognitive arousal and insomnia symptoms were examined. Sleep was assessed with self-report measures and objectively with actigraphy. Results showed lower levels of pre-sleep arousal and milder subjective insomnia symptoms post-intervention. Longer duration of meditation practice in the final week was associated with greater decreases in cognitive arousal scores. No improvements were found in objectively measured sleep variables. The results of this study suggest that mindfulness-based stress management can lead to improvements in cognitive arousal and self-reports of sleep, even in the absence of objective evidence of sleep improvement. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.