New research suggests that sleeping an extra 29 minutes each night could improve mindfulness, a mental technique that has been shown to improve daily well-being and work performance. In turn, better mindfulness can reduce sleepiness during the day.

According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of South Florida, mindfulness is achieved by intentionally bringing an individual’s awareness and attention to the present moment without forming an opinion, instead of focusing on future plans or past issues. Unlike previous studies on the technique, the new investigation looked at how multiple dimensions of nightly sleep impact daily mindfulness, rather than merely sleep quality or duration.

“One can be awake and alert, but not necessarily mindful,” said lead author Soomi Lee, PhD, in a statement. “Mindful attention is beyond being just awake. It indicates attentional control and self-regulation that facilitates sensitivity and adaptive adjustment to environmental and internal cues, which are essential when providing mindful care to patients and effectively dealing with stressful situations.”

The research focused on nurses, who the study authors said are the largest group of health care professionals whose need for optimal sleep and mindfulness are particularly high. Sleep problems are common among nurses due to long shifts, lack of situational control, and close proximity to life-threatening health conditions.

Optimal sleep health and attention are especially important as nurses work on the front lines of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. The investigators followed 61 nurses for 2 weeks and examined multiple characteristics of sleep health, using a variety of tools to measure their mindfulness and how their mental states were affected by sleep.

Participants answered daily mindfulness and sleepiness questions using a smartphone app 3 times a day for 2 weeks. Daily mindfulness was measured using the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale, which asks questions such as, “I was doing something automatically, without being aware of what I was doing,” and “I was finding it difficult to stay focused on what was happening.”

Participants also wore an Actiwatch Spectrum device during the study period, which measured wrist movement activity to quantify sleep and wake patterns.

They found that the nurses’ mindful attention was greater after nights with greater sleep sufficiency, better sleep quality, lower efficiency, and longer sleep duration. Daily mindful attention also contributed to less same-day sleepiness, and those with greater mindful attention were 66% less likely to experience symptoms of insomnia during the study period.

REFERENCE
Sleep health dictates success of practicing mindfulness [news release]. University of South Florida; October 19, 2020. https://www.usf.edu/news/2020/sleep-health-dictates-success-of-practicing-mindfulness.aspx. Accessed October 19, 2020.