Posted on Jul 14, 2017, 9 a.m.
First-of-it's-kind study shows you are more likely to have quality sleep at night, with fewer disturbances, if you have a good reason to get out of bed in the morning.
Scientists may have just found the secret to a good night’s sleep. A recent study from Northwestern Medicine and Rush has found that having a good reason to get up in the morning may be the key to combating sleeping disorders. Specifically, the researchers linked having a purposeful life to increasing relief from sleep disturbances like restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea in older respondents.
This study is the first of its kind. No other research has achieved proven results showing that having an overarching purpose in life can lead to an improved quality of sleep over time. Previously, studies have simply focused on showing how living a purposeful life can generally improve sleep at a single point in time.
What is Poor Sleep?
When someone is experiencing a poor quality of sleep, they typically have trouble falling or staying asleep. Another defining characteristic they experience is chronically feeling sleepy throughout the day. As people grow older, they are also more prone to facing sleep apnea.
This is where they have shallow breathing, or even pauses in their breathing pattern, several times during their sleep. As a result, these disruptions will make someone feel fatigued when they wake up and excessively sleepy throughout the day.
Restless leg syndrome is another symptom of poor sleep. This condition leads to uncomfortable sensitivity in the leg, as well as an irresistible longing to move them. These urges typically manifest themselves late in the afternoon or evening, but are most severe during the night when the person is resting or sleeping.
Doing the Research
It is a proven fact that individuals experience more symptoms of insomnia and sleep disturbances as they grow older. The American College of Physicians recommends that medical care professionals first explore interventions that are non-drug based to improve sleep quality as the initial stage of treating insomnia.
The participants took part in a 32-question analysis on their sleep patterns, as well as a 10-question survey on their purpose in life. As a result, the breakdown showed that those who felt their lives had more purpose and meaning were 52 percent less likely to suffer from restless leg syndrome and 63 percent less prone to sleep apnea. They also experienced a better quality of sleep, which is a universal measure of sleep disturbance.
Researchers argue that, although this particular study used older participants, the findings will most likely apply to people in other age groups. The research paper was published in the Sleep Science and Practice Journal on July 9th, 2017. In it, researchers explain that cultivating a purpose-filled life is a more effective strategy for better sleep than turning to drugs.
This study is vital at a time when larger portions of the population are suffering from insomnia. It goes on to explain that one can cultivate and enhance a purpose in life through using mindfulness therapies.
People suffering from poor sleep are advised to stick to a bedtime schedule of when to go to sleep and wake up. They can also try cutting out caffeine and nicotine before bedtime. Other practices that can disrupt one’s sleep patterns include taking naps during the day, heavy meals at night, exercising right before bedtime, and using computers and TVs in the bedroom.
Although this study is quite groundbreaking, it creates further questions that need research. In particular, the next step of this study should be to understand how therapies based on mindfulness practices can be used to target one’s purpose in life and lead to better overall quality of sleep.
Arlener D. Turner, Christine E. Smith, Jason C. Ong. Is purpose in life associated with less sleep disturbance in older adults? Sleep Science and Practice, 2017; 1 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s41606-017-0015-6