Why Having a Sense of Purpose Could Help You Sleep Better

By Alexa Erickson, Collective Evolution

We’ve surely all had one of those days where life seems to get the best of us. We become overwhelmed by all we have not accomplished. We compare ourselves to others. Our negative self talk ultimately results in a feeling of worthlessness. It can be enough to throw you back into bed, the covers above your head.

You think maybe sleeping it off will be better. And while waking up to a new day is a great way to get over your bout of insecurity, some people find themselves experiencing this negativity day in and day out. Others may not even know it’s happening to them, and are suffering from other health issues as a result.

If you’re a bad sleeper — which tens of millions of people are — you might want to consider your sense of purpose in life.

The findings of the new study, out of Northwestern University, which looked to finding new options for treating such issues as sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome, provide scientists new data on how our state of mind may affect how well we sleep. It’s the first to examine such a connection over a longer period.

The study, which took place over a year, involved asking 823 adults between the ages of 60 and 100, 32 questions about their sleep habits and outlook on life. The sleep quality measured in the study spanned trouble falling asleep, staying asleep through the night, and feeling sleepy during the day.

The study also had the participants answer a series of statements, which included “I feel good when I think of what I’ve done in the past and what I hope to do in the future” and “some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them,” as a means for pointing out someone’s outlook on life.

Of the participants who said their lives had the most meaning, 63 percent were revealed to be less likely to experience sleep apnea, and 52 percent were less likely to have restless legs syndrome. They also had moderately better sleep quality overall.

“Helping people cultivate a purpose in life could be an effective drug-free strategy to improve sleep quality, particularly for a population that is facing more insomnia,” says lead researcher Jason Ong. “Purpose in life is something that can be cultivated and enhanced through mindfulness therapies.”

Though some might believe the age range is fairly old, the researchers believe the same connection likely applies to the broader population.

To feel good about life is always a positive thing. Science aside, think about your actions when you aren’t happy. This study just gives more weight to how having a purpose in life is an indicator of better physical and mental health. And naturally, better sleep is a result of being in a good place.

“Collectively, the emerging data indicates the benefits of positive psychology on sleep health,” conclude the researchers.

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