Your trusted sleeping pill, herbal tea, or relaxing music may not be the secret to getting a good night’s sleep. A new study, for instance, shows that having a wonderful reason to get up in the morning may actually be the key.
People with a strong sense of purpose suffered less insomnia and sleep disturbances compared to others and claimed to have more restful sleep at night, according to findings from a new Northwestern University study on older adults.
"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," said senior author and lead researcher Jason Ong in a statement, adding how purpose can be developed and enhanced via mindfulness therapy.
The team recruited more than 800 individuals ages 60 to 100 in the study, where they answered 32 questions on the quality of their sleep as well as 10 questions on their motivations in life. More than half of the participants were African-American, while 77 percent were female.
To assess purpose, participants were asked to rate statements including: “I feel good when I think of what I’ve done in the past and what I hope to do in the future.”
People who saw meaning in their lives had moderately better quality of sleep and emerged 63 percent less likely to have sleep apnea and 52 percent less likely to experience restless leg syndrome.
Sleep apnea is a disorder marked by breathing that is shallow or occasionally stops, while restless leg syndrome is a compulsion to move one’s legs, a practice that worsens at night.
How To Achieve Better Sleep
People suffer insomnia and more sleep disturbances as they get older, and groups such as the American College of Physicians recommend non-drug interventions as first-line treatment for these sleep issues.
The team seeks to explore mindfulness therapies to target purpose in life and the resulting improved sleep quality.
The findings were detailed July 9 in the journal Sleep Science and Practice.
Poor sleep quality is linked to trouble falling or staying asleep, as well as the general feeling of sleepiness during daytime. UK charity Age UK suggests various techniques to improve sleep quality, from establishing a bedtime routine and cutting out caffeine in the evening, to banning TVs and gadgets from the bedroom.
In the United States, an estimated 108 million American have difficulty sleeping. Recently, a group of researchers highlighted exercise as a safe alternative to taking insomnia drugs, which had been associated with a greater risk of infection, falling, and dementia in older adults.