TAMPA, Fla. — Sleep is a critical part of survival and plays a heavy role in how people function throughout their day. Making matters worse, the average person has plenty of things competing for their attention and making them lose concentration. Now, a team of researchers from the University of South Florida has discovered that quality and duration of sleep can boost a person’s mindfulness.
Their study finds by adding an extra 29 minutes of shut-eye every night, can help the sleeper in multiple ways. Mindfulness can improve overall well-being, work performance, and keep thoughts focused in the present moment. Researchers focused on nurses, due to their critical need for sleep and mindfulness to keep sharp all day. Healthcare professionals tend to lack sleep thanks to working long shifts and their constant contact with life-threatening situations. As COVID-19 continues to fill hospitals with patients, study authors say frontline health care workers need to pay extra attention to their sleep and mental health.
The study examined 61 nurses, following them for two weeks and studying the many aspects of their sleep health. Researchers asked the participants to answer mindfulness and sleepiness questions three times a day. The nurses used the smartphone app, RealLife Exp, to log their responses. Using a Mindful Attention Awareness Scale, study authors gauged each person’s mindfulness through 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 for the the two-week period. The device measured wrist movement activity to record sleep and wake patterns.
‘One can be awake and alert, but not necessarily mindful’
The team discovered that the mindfulness of the nurses improved after nights with adequate rest. Duration and quality of sleep also played a major part in the findings. Nurses with increased mindful attention were 66 percent less likely to experience insomnia symptoms within the study period.
“One can be awake and alert, but not necessarily mindful. Similarly, one can be tired or in low arousal but still can be mindful,” says lead author Soomi Lee in a university release. “Mindful attention is beyond being just being 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 findings of this research sparks interest in how health care workers are working toward more mindful behaviors by getting more sleep. This allows the frontline workers to provide better services throughout their shifts.
The study appears in the journal Sleep Health.