Mindfulness Improves Sleep and Reduces Stress

Summary: A new study reveals that mindfulness helps improve sleep quality and reduce stress by focusing on the present and minimizing negative thoughts. The study tracked 144 nurses over two weeks, highlighting how mindfulness influences emotion regulation and overall well-being.

These findings offer valuable insights for employers aiming to reduce work-related stress. Future research will further explore effective stress-reduction strategies across various occupations.

Key Facts:

  1. Improved Sleep: Mindfulness enhances sleep quality by reducing negative emotions and rumination.
  2. Emotion Regulation: Staying present helps nurses handle stress better.
  3. Workplace Interventions: Findings support the use of mindfulness-based stress reduction programs.

Source: University of South Florida

Mindfulness – focusing on the present moment – can improve sleep, reduce stress and improve overall health. A new University of South Florida-led study helps explain why.

Researchers studied 144 nurses over two weeks to see how well they could stay focused on the present and how often they fixated on negative thoughts. The nurses completed surveys three times a day and reported their sleep quality the following morning.

The findings shed light on how mindfulness relates to emotion regulation, the way people handle stressful situations, such as a setback at work.

This shows a woman sleeping.
The study found that mindfulness helped the nurses experience fewer negative emotions and less rumination — repetitive negative thinking. Credit: Neuroscience News

And they provide a clearer picture of how employees and employers can reduce work-related stress, said Claire Smith, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of psychology in the USF College of Arts and Sciences.

“Mindfulness is often seen as a magical cure-all for employee stress,” Smith said. “The way it’s often spoken about makes it seem as if staying grounded in and accepting of the present moment means you will never be stressed. To me, it’s crucial to add more nuance.”

That’s where the study comes in by providing insight into how the connection between mindfulness and emotion regulation affects sleep quality.

“We know that good sleep restores us physically and psychologically, and it keeps us happier, safer and even more ethical at work,” Smith said. “We wanted to explore which aspects of sleep are influenced by mindfulness and why.”

Smith’s team included three USF colleagues and two Penn State researchers. It was published recently in the journal Health Psychology.

The researchers focused on nurses due to their long, irregular hours and high-stress work environment, which often leads to sleep problems that can affect not only their health, but patient safety.

The study found that mindfulness helped the nurses experience fewer negative emotions and less rumination — repetitive negative thinking.

“For instance, if you got a negative performance review at work, you might choose to shift your focus from negative thoughts of how you have failed and are incompetent to positive thoughts of what you did right and how you can grow,” Smith said.

Smith and her co-authors believe the findings could help employers make better decisions about implementing strategies to boost their workers’ health. Popular employer interventions include mindfulness-based stress reduction programs, along with yoga, meditation, tai chi and therapy. These programs have been shown to help employees manage stress and improve their overall well-being.

“Mindfulness is a hot topic, but we need to understand why it works,” Smith said. “Our research is about going back to the drawing board to understand the reasons behind the benefits of mindfulness at work.”

The authors acknowledge the need for further studies to explore the best methods for reducing work-related stress and how they apply across different occupations, including more traditional office settings outside of health care.

“We hope future research on mindfulness looks at not just big-picture results like better sleep or productivity but also how it affects things like handling emotions,” Smith said.

“When an intervention doesn’t work, it helps us understand where the problem is stemming from. When it does work, it tells us why.”

About this mindfulness, sleep, and stress research news

Author: John Dudley
Source: University of South Florida
Contact: John Dudley – University of South Florida
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: Closed access.
Be present now, sleep well later: Mindfulness promotes sleep health via emotion regulation” by Claire Smith et al. Health Psychology


Be present now, sleep well later: Mindfulness promotes sleep health via emotion regulation

Objective: Despite the popularity of mindfulness in research and interventions, information is missing about how and why mindfulness may benefit employee sleep health. Drawing from emotion regulation theory, we evaluate affective rumination, negative affect, and positive affect as potential mechanisms.

We also explore differential effects of trait and state attentional mindfulness on both subjective (e.g., quality and sufficiency) and actigraphy-measured aspects (e.g., duration and wake after sleep onset) of sleep health.

Method: Ecological momentary assessment and sleep actigraphy data were collected across two independent samples of health care workers (N1 = 60, N2 = 84). Ecological momentary assessment was also used to collect daily information on state mindfulness, affect, and rumination.

Results: Our results support rumination and, to a less consistent extent, negative affect as mediators of the association between mindfulness and sleep health but not positive affect. Trait and state mindfulness demonstrate comparable benefits for employee sleep health, but these benefits largely emerge for subjective sleep dimensions than actigraphy-measured.

Conclusions: These findings support emotion regulation as a sound theoretical framework for sleep and mindfulness research and may support more informed workplace mindfulness interventions. 

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