We All Need This Key Ingredient for Mindfulness

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Listen to enough experts and you'll soon be convinced that mindfulness is a miracle cure. Researchers seem determined to show that maintaining a nonjudgmental awareness of your reactions and your body can alleviate stress, fix our finances, rebalance our work lives, and help us enjoy the simple pleasures more. One new study, however, cautions that all the meditation and self-help books in the world won't help if you're not properly centered.

By this, scientists at the University of South Florida mean you should pay attention to how sleep affects your ability to engage with mindfulness. As little as an extra half-hour of sleep can markedly improve mindfulness the next day, which in turn can reduce ongoing sleepiness.

"One can be awake and alert, but not necessarily mindful. Similarly, one can be tired or in low arousal but still can be mindful," said lead author Soomi Lee. This study looked at nurses, a chronically over-stressed and under-rested population. With an extra 29 minutes of sleep, these nurses saw a two-thirds reduction in symptoms of insomnia, as well as greater mindful attention and better-quality sleep overall.

Sleep researchers are almost as convinced as mindfulness researchers that their field of study will fix any number of socially mediated and imposed ills. If you find yourself stressed and exhausted by living through COVID, whether you work from home or outside it, addressing one or both of these issues could create a virtuous cycle to kick your well-being (and productivity) back where you want it to be.