The lead study author Soomi Lee, Ph.D. and her team of colleagues at the University of South Florida studied a sample size of 61 nurses to helpful conclusions for those of us who may be suffering from sleep disorders and lower mindfulness capacity throughout our daily routines. The methods discussed by researchers for the continuation of this symbiotic relationship in allowing folks to access better focus and cognitive function on the job the next day is especially important for our essential workers during the coronavirus crisis.
Let’s dive deeper into this comprehensive study to reap similar benefits gleaned from good rest and a peaceful sense of awareness every day.
The case study
Soomi Lee amongst her team of researchers decided to perform a nuanced sleep study of 61 nurses in United States hospitals for 2 consecutive weeks. What was particularly different and interesting about this recent sleep study is that scientists wanted to study the positive feedback loop into which sleep and mindfulness played into for the benefit of the other and vice-versa.
Before these nurses were essentially “sent to bed” researchers asked them to self-report on the following sleep variables the next day:
- satisfaction (self-report of sleep quality or insomnia symptoms)
- alertness (self-report of sleepiness level reported the next day)
- timing (an Apple Smartwatch was worn to clock circadian rhythms and sleep-wake cycles)
- efficiency (Apple Smartwatch report of the percentage of time spent asleep in bed)
- duration (sleep duration according to clocking REM cycles and rhythms via Apple Smartwatches Actigraphy capabilities.)
Actigraphy devices are used to understand sleep patterns in relation to a deeper understanding of sleep disorders in humans. Most smartwatch devices have this technology built-in if you’d like to participate in your own self sleep study to find out why you feel so groggy and unproductive in the morning.
What is mindfulness exactly?
Mindfulness is considered the recognition of your passing thoughts, feelings, and sensory reactions removed from a place of judgment. Sitting with and acknowledging what’s happening in your mind and body is helpful for many reasons.
Previous research conducted by myself at Ladders proves the awesome benefits associated with mindfulness-based breathing techniques and stress relief. Less stress means more rest.
“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says study senior author Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology.”
When you practice controlled breathing and mindfulness techniques on a daily basis this lowers cortisol levels responsible for our emotional “fight or flight” response that makes sleep hard to come by.
It’s important we look into all the techniques to ensure we stay rested in tumultuous times of transition.
What scientists discovered
After clocking the nurses’ sleep patterns and mindfulness reports for weeks head author Soomi Lee PhD., Christina Mu, BA., Brian D. Gonzalez, Ph.D., Christine E. Vinci, PhD., and Brent J. Small, Ph.D. found more nurses reported higher incidences of mindfulness after a reported mere 29 more minutes of sleep!
“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.”
Regan adds this interesting correlation and statistics found between rest and mindfulness.
“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.”
Think of rest and mindfulness in the context of the rules for participating in a successful relay race. They pass the baton of benefits to each other every time they meet. The more you get of each one, the better chance you’ll have at winning the race for enjoying the benefits of both the following day.
I’m a huge advocate for both mindfulness and getting enough rest to be the best you when you wake up every morning. If you’re new to meditation try these MBSR meditation techniques, adjust your diet, get in moderate exercise every week, and try holistic supplements to induce sleep if you suffer from insomnia. Mindfulness is crucial for everyone to perform better on the job and show up every day for your patients as a nurse or other essential workers. Try these meditation applications to guide you on your wellness journey.