Why a positive outlook on life means healthy sleep

Having a purpose in life helps people move through their days—and also their nights.

positive outlookResearchers at Northwestern University’s Department of Neurology in Evanston, Illinois, studied 800 older adults to see if having a purpose in life translated into fewer sleep disorders and disturbances. It turns out, it did.

After establishing a baseline with study participants, researchers found that older adults who started with a high level of meaning in their lives had better sleep quality to begin with and also showed improvement at the one- and two-year follow-ups, according to a July 26 blog on PsychologyToday.com. They were 63% less likely to have sleep apnea and 52% less likely to have restless leg syndrome than their less purposeful peers.

It could be that “individuals with higher levels of purpose in life tend to engage in more healthy behaviors,” the study authors write in the July 10 journal Sleep Science and Practice. “For example, studies have shown that people with more purpose in life are more likely to exercise, participate in preventative behaviors, such as doctor visits, and seek out adequate relaxation,” the authors write.

They also note the findings could help doctors gain insights into older adults’ sleep quality by assessing their patients’ well-being.

Next steps include investigating whether mindfulness-behavior treatment can be a drug-free way to help those with sleep disorders, according to PsychologyToday.com.

“Purpose in life is something we know can be cultivated and enhanced,” says lead author Arlener Turner. “The tenet of mindfulness-based therapy is that your life has a purpose, but you just haven’t thought about what that purpose might be.”