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A Purpose-Driven Life Leads to Better Sleep

Heal
Woman looking out curtain

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Cultivating a purpose-driven life by day leads to more peaceful slumber at night.

Knowing you have a good reason to rise and shine—whether that’s because you need to walk a cute dog, take care of a loved one, or work on a project—means you’ll sleep better at night. And sleep better in very specific ways, meaning less sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome.

This discovery is the result of a study from Northwestern Medicine and Rush University Medical Center, which polled 823 participants who were 60 to 100 years old. Researchers focused on older people for this data collection because as humans age, we tend to have more disturbances in sleep, troubled by things such as restless leg syndrome and insomnia. The American College of Physicians now recommends non-drug interventions as a first-line defense for treating insomnia, as opposed to popping a sleeping pill, so understanding how to help people sleep better, more naturally, is an exciting area of research. 

For the study, participants answered a 10-question survey on how they felt about their life’s purpose and a 32-page survey on sleep. Once the numbers were crunched, the results showed that people who felt their lives had meaning were 63 percent less likely to have sleep apnea and 52 percent 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,” wrote the study’s senior author, Jason Ong, an associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Purpose in life is something that can be cultivated and enhanced through mindfulness therapies.”

The next step in the research, says Arlener Turner, the study's first author and a former postdoctoral fellow in neurology at Feinberg, will be to study the use of mindfulness-based therapies to target purpose in life and resulting sleep quality.

Get more sleep with this simple restorative yoga practice.


Kathryn Drury Wagner

Spirituality & Health’s Wellbeing Editor, Kathryn Drury Wagner, is based in Savannah. She’s been a contributor to the magazine for many years, and she loves sharing ways to build a healthy, mindful, and sustainable lifestyle. 


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