Mindfulness has long been touted as a core pillar of a peaceful and conscious lifestyle. But despite its many benefits, some of us still struggle to reach that place of calm awareness. Could sleep be the key we're missing?
According to fresh research from the University of South Florida, it very well might be. In the new study, published in the journal Sleep Health, a little extra sleep per night (29 minutes to be exact) was enough to increase participants' capacity for mindfulness the next day.
Looking for the connection between sleep and mindfulness.
In this study, researchers tracked the sleep patterns and the degrees of mindfulness of 61 nurses for two weeks, looking for any connections or correlations between the two.
Mindfulness, which the Oxford dictionary defines as "a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations," can be tough to track. So in this study, researchers relied on self-reported data, asking the nurses to rate their daily mindful attention multiple times a day. They then compared this to their sleep-wake patterns, as recorded by a smartwatch.
"One can be awake and alert but not necessarily mindful," lead study author Soomi Lee, Ph.D., explains in a news release. "Similarly, one can be tired or in low arousal but still can be mindful." In other words, it isn't necessarily a given that more sleep would equate to more mindfulness.
What they found.
After crunching the numbers, Lee's team found that better sleep did indeed seem to improve mindfulness. Nurses who had a better night of sleep (measured by sleep sufficiency, better sleep quality, and longer sleep duration of around half an hour) reported greater mindful attention the next day.
On top of that, mindfulness also seemed to improve feelings of sleepiness, and those who had greater mindful attention were 66% less likely to deal with insomnia. This hints at an interesting sleep-mindfulness positive feedback loop.
The deep and restorative sleep you've always dreamt about*
Sleep and mindfulness are two areas that have a big impact on our overall well-being, and when paired, they seem to work together to improve how we feel throughout the day—and how easily we fall asleep at night.
So if you've always struggled with mindfulness, paying more attention to your sleep could be key.