Study finds 'healthy' sleep is key to improving mindfulness

Mindfulness, a conscious state in which one typically takes deliberate steps to be present in any given moment, is a trendy self-care movement at the moment, one backed by a growing number of studies that have linked the practice to various potential health benefits. Some people may find themselves struggling to be mindful throughout the day, however, and the reason may have to do with how they slept the night before.

The idea behind mindfulness is that one's attention may end up in a constant state of distraction, focusing on things that aren't worth focusing on, becoming fixated on certain emotions or ideas that have no relevance on one's present moment. Mindfulness aims to quiet these thoughts by observing them, but not engaging with them, ultimately bringing one's attention more into the present moment.

Depending on which studies you look at, mindfulness has been linked to various potential health benefits, including reduced insomnia, blood pressure, depression, and anxiety. However, many would-be practitioners report issues with getting into a mindfulness state of mind, something that may be due to an unhealthy sleep pattern, according to a new study from the University of South Florida.

The new study focused on multiple aspects of sleep, not just one metric like how long one sleeps at night or the quality of that night's sleep. The findings were favorable across both aspects of the study, finding that improved sleep quality led to an improvement in mindfulness, and that improved mindfulness then reduced how tired the person felt the next day, making it easier for them to enter a more mindful state.

The researchers focused on nurses for the obvious reason that they often need to focus on the matter at hand, need to get adequate sleep, and may work long shifts that disrupt sleep quality on a regular basis.

Healthy sleep, in this case, refers to nights during which participants not only slept an extra 30 minutes compared to their usual durations but also experienced better sleep quality and sufficiency. The nurses who were more mindful during the two-week duration of the study were also found to be far less likely to experience insomnia symptoms compared to those who were less mindful.