Illustration: Ashley Siebels
If you’re having trouble getting out of bed in the morning, it’s evidence that you need something to live for.
A new Northwestern University study found that one simple thing can improve the quality of your sleep: having a purpose in life.
Sleep is particularly a problem for older individuals. 40% of older adults have a sleep disorder. What the Northwestern researchers found is that having meaning in your life can make all the difference for this group. The researchers recruited 823 participants, whose average age was 79, to answer questionnaires on their satisfaction with their life and the quality of their sleep.
“Purpose in life” was determined through a 10-question psychological wellbeing test. Participants would rate how they felt to statements like “I feel good when I think of what I’ve done in the past and what I hope to do in the future” and “some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them.”
People with meaning in their life sleep better at night
Participants who had more meaning and purpose in their lives were 63% less likely to have sleep apnea and 52% less likely to have restless leg syndrome.
“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,” senior study author Jason Ong said in a university statement.
Well, yes we’d prefer to have a purpose in life rather than taking an Ambien, but who has that kind of time?
This finding makes sense. Previous studies have found that people who have purpose in their lives are more likely to engage in healthy behavior like exercise and mindfulness.
In fact, researchers said that as a result of this study, they would be looking into using mindfulness-based therapies on older adults with sleep disorders. Mindfulness helps you put your life on perspective and focus on the task at hand. Here are mindfulness techniques you can incorporate into your routine.
Beyond emotional and psychological benefits, sleep has also been linked to higher productivity and wages. Yes, that’s right. Getting more shut-eye literally pays off in the long-run. A 2016 study found that people who increased their sleep by just an hour had their wages increase by 5%.
So finding meaning in your life leads to better sleep, which leads to happier and productive workers and more money. This is an equation we can all get behind.
It may seem small to take breathers at work and make sure to get that extra hour of sleep, but as these studies show, the math adds up.