The practice of mindfulness has drawn considerable attention over the past decade, often in the context of meditation. A new study discovers naturally occurring qualities of mindfulness can improve sleep and mitigate mood fluctuations.
University of Utah researchers discovered individuals who describe themselves as being more mindful have more stable emotions and perceive themselves to have better control over their mood and behavior throughout the day.
More mindful people also describe less cognitive and physiological activation before bedtime, suggesting that greater emotional stability during the day might even translate into better sleep.
Prior studies of mindfulness, including staying in the present moment, being non-judgmental and paying attention, have typically been conducted with participants trained in mindfulness, for example meditation or other practices.
In this study, though, participants went about their normal daily life while wearing a monitor that measured cardiac functioning.
Study members also received prompting throughout the day to rate their emotional state and mental functioning.
“This study gives us a better understanding of how mindfulness affects stress responses throughout the day,” said researcher and graduate student Holly Rau.
“People who reported higher levels of mindfulness described better control over their emotions and behaviors during the day. In addition, higher mindfulness was associated with lower activation at bedtime, which could have benefits for sleep quality and future ability to manage stress.”
For the study, a total of 38 subjects were recruited from the community and University of Utah undergraduate psychology courses. They ranged in age from 20 to 45, and one-third were male.
On the first day of the study, each participant completed a baseline assessment that included standard questionnaires, resting physiological assessment and cognitive testing before beginning two days of experience sampling.
In the daily life portion of the study, participants wore a cardiac impedance monitor and responded to questions about their emotional state several times a day for two days.
At the end of each day, participants also completed questionnaires about their ability to regulate their emotions and behaviors and were asked to rate their level of cognitive and physical arousal before falling asleep.
Researchers found that greater emotional stability, better self-rated control of emotions and behaviors and lower pre-sleep arousal (a measurement of cognitive and physical symptoms of anxiety) were all significantly associated with higher trait mindfulness.
Researchers believe the results suggest that mindfulness may be linked to self-regulation throughout the day, and that this may be an important way that mindfulness contributes to better emotional and physical well-being.
As an emerging area of study, future research will examine the link between moment-to-moment mindfulness, physiological markers of stress throughout the day and sleep quality.
Source: University of Utah