The Sneaky Reason You’re Not Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

Better sleep could require some soul searching, new research shows.

It’s probably not just your annoying neighbors keeping you up at night, a new study shows. According to a recent study conducted by researchers at Northwestern Medicine and Rush University Medical Center, to be published in the journal Sleep Science and Practice, there’s actually a pretty glaring connection between having a sense of purpose in your life and getting a good night’s sleep.

The study surveyed 823 participants on how fulfilled they were with their lives and their sleep patterns. Turned out, the participants who indicated through the survey that they felt their lives had meaning had overall better sleep quality (an example of how researchers determined whether someone felt a sense of purpose was asking by for a participants to rate their response 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”). Plus they were 63 percent less likely to suffer from sleep apnea and 52 percent less likely to have restless leg syndrome, both of which mess with getting a good night’s rest. The research participants were over 60 years in age, but the researchers say the findings can likely be applied to the broader public.

So, the reason you might not be catching your Z’s? It may be because you’re missing a sense of purpose in your life.

Okay … so, what do you do if you don’t know how the heck to find your purpose? Before you give up and grab for some OTC melatonin, take note: As senior author Jason Ong said in a press release, “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.” And here’s the key: “Purpose in life is something that can be cultivated and enhanced through mindfulness therapies,” he says. A-ha!

Okay, onto the next question: what are mindfulness therapies? Well, Philly’s already got a lineup of mindfulness therapies available. Both Penn Medicine and Jefferson University Hospital offer these types of programs. The Mindfulness Institute at Jefferson‘s website breaks down what exactly that means: “Mindfulness is about paying attention. It’s about living your life in the richness of right now, not being lost in memories of the past or overwhelmed by the worries or projections of the future.”

The researchers’ next step will be to study how mindfulness therapies impact a person’s sense of purpose, and how that, in turn, impacts their snooze quality. But hey, no harm in testing out the waters for yourself before they report back.

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