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Sleep increases feelings of hope, happiness, and gratitude

In our hustle-and-bustle world, sleep often gets the short end of the stick. We burn the midnight oil, sacrifice sleep for work, and tell ourselves we’ll catch up on rest later. But what if those extra minutes of shut-eye could be the key to a more gratitude in life?

A fascinating new study has revealed a surprising connection between sleep and some of the most sought-after aspects of human experience: gratitude, resilience, and overall flourishing.

Sleep, happiness and gratitude

While we all know that a good night’s sleep can leave us feeling refreshed and energized, this research delves deeper, suggesting that sleep plays a crucial role in shaping our emotional well-being and outlook on life.

The study, led by Dr. Michael Scullin, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University, involved 90 adults who were randomly assigned to different sleep schedules. 

Some were instructed to go to bed earlier than usual, increasing their sleep by an average of 46 minutes per night, while others were asked to go to bed later, resulting in a 37-minute decrease in nightly sleep. A third group maintained their normal sleep patterns.

The results were striking. Those who enjoyed the extra sleep experienced significant improvements in feelings of gratitude, resilience, and flourishing. They were also more likely to express their gratitude, writing twice as much in gratitude journals compared to those with restricted sleep.

Science behind the smiles

So, how exactly does sleep work its magic on our happiness? While the exact mechanisms are still being explored, scientists believe that sleep plays a crucial role in regulating our emotions and mental well-being.

During sleep, our brains process the events of the day, consolidating memories and emotions. This process helps us to make sense of our experiences and develop coping mechanisms for stress and challenges. 

Sleep also plays a vital role in regulating hormones like cortisol (the stress hormone) and serotonin (the “feel-good” hormone), which can significantly impact our mood and emotional well-being.

“While it’s recognized that sleep loss worsens mental health symptoms, there have not been experimental studies to test whether increasing sleep improves the positive aspects of life like feelings of purpose, hope, and gratitude,” explained Dr. Scullin.

This study fills that gap, providing compelling evidence that sleep does more than just prevent negative emotions – it actively promotes positive ones.

More gratitude and resilience with sleep

The implications of these findings go beyond individual well-being. Gratitude and resilience are not only essential for personal happiness but also for building stronger communities and a more compassionate society.

Gratitude, the feeling of appreciation for the good things in life, has been linked to numerous benefits, including improved relationships, increased happiness, and even better physical health. Resilience, the ability to bounce back from adversity, is crucial for navigating life’s challenges and maintaining a positive outlook.

“Subtly increasing sleep increased people’s gratitude, resilience, and feelings of flourishing in life,” said Dr. Scullin. This simple act of prioritizing sleep could have a ripple effect, fostering a more grateful, resilient, and ultimately happier society.

Prioritizing sleep

The study’s findings challenge us to rethink our relationship with sleep. It’s not just about avoiding fatigue or preventing health problems – it’s about unlocking a whole new level of well-being.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society recommend that adults get at least seven hours of sleep per night. While this may seem like a luxury in our fast-paced lives, the benefits of prioritizing sleep are undeniable.

If you’re looking to boost your happiness, resilience, and gratitude, start by making small changes to your sleep routine. Go to bed a little earlier, create a relaxing bedtime ritual, and avoid screens before sleep. These simple steps could lead to significant improvements in your overall well-being.

So, the next time you’re tempted to stay up late, remember that those extra minutes of sleep could be the key to a happier, more fulfilling life. It’s time to hit the snooze button on stress and wake up to a brighter tomorrow.

The research was presented at the SLEEP 2024 annual meeting.


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