Article image

Want to sleep better? Find a purpose in life

Those who have a purpose in life enjoy better quality of sleep, according to new research.

People who have a reason to get up in the morning experience lower levels of sleep apnea, insomnia and restless leg syndrome, scientists from Northwestern University and Rush University discovered.

“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 Dr. Jason Ong of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in a press release. “Purpose in life is something that can be cultivated and enhanced through mindfulness therapies.”

The researchers looked at sleep disturbances among older populations. The more than 800 participants in the study ranged in age from 60 to 100; none suffered from forms of dementia. More than half were African American, and three quarters were women.

They found that among the participants, those who felt they had a purpose in life were 63 percent less likely to suffer from sleep apnea, and more than 50 percent less likely to have restless leg syndrome.

The participants answered a pair of surveys on their sleep quality and on their purpose in life.

In general, people struggle more with sleep disturbances as they age, the researchers said. Physicians look to non-drug treatments to help improve their patients’ sleep. Encouraging their patients to cultivate a purpose in life might add another non-drug tool for improving sleep, the study’s authors said.

The next steps would focus on using mindfulness-based therapies and other strategies focused on cultivating a life’s purpose to help patients improve their sleep. Then, scientists could evaluate how these strategies help to relieve sleep disturbances, the researchers said.

The research was published in the journal Sleep Science and Practice. It was funded by the National Institute on Aging.

By Kyla Cathey, staff writer

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day