Does the idea of waking up feeling refreshed feel like a distant dream? Well, you’re not alone.
Sleep problems appear to be on the rise, with more than a third of us
sleeping for less than 6 hours a night, according to The Sleep Council.
Poor sleep has been linked with a host of health problems, ranging from
weight gain to dementia, and it’s something many of us worry about – and
struggle with – on a nightly basis. However, could a new discovery by scientists be the key to getting a good night’s sleep once and for all?
According to researchers at Chicago’s Northwestern University, feeling as though you have something to get out of bed for in the morning could be the secret to sleeping better at night.
The study, published in Sleep, Science and Practice, analysed the responses of 823 people aged between 60 and 100 to a 32 question survey on sleep and a 10 item questionnaire on purpose in life, which asked them to rate their agreement with statements such as “I feel good when I think of what I’ve done in the past and what I hope to do in the future”.
Respondents who felt their lives held meaning enjoyed better sleep quality and were 63% less like to have sleep apnea and 52% less likely to have restless leg syndrome. Sleep apnea (shallow breathing and/or pauses in breathing during sleep) is a common sleep disorder which becomes increasingly common with age.
Restless leg syndrome, which affects 7-10% of people, causes uncomfortable sensations in the legs accompanied by irresistible urges to move them. It can cause difficulties dropping off and often wakes sufferers during the night.
“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 Jason Ong, an associate professor of neurology who led the research.
But how, exactly, can we go about cultivating a sense of purpose? According to Ong, there’s no need to quit your job or sign up for that mountaineering expedition just yet. “Purpose in life is something that can be cultivated and enhanced through mindfulness therapies,” he believes. Volunteering or taking a class in something you’ve always wanted to try might just be your ticket to the land of nod, but, for starters, why not try snuggling up with a meditation app or podcast?