A new study says mindfulness techniques can lead to a better sleep.
By Sarah Knapton
It is said that a clear conscience makes the softest pillow, but the secret of a good night’s sleep may be having something worth getting out of bed for the next day. In the first research of its kind, American scientists found having a purpose in life results in fewer night-time disturbances for older people.
Sleep problems are associated with many illnesses, including Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, heart disease, diabetes and even colds and flu, so promoting better sleep could help overall health.
“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, the senior author and an associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Illinois.
“Purpose in life is something that can be cultivated and enhanced through mindfulness therapies.”
In general, adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, but the exact amount varies from person to person, depending on age, lifestyle and genes.
More than a third of people in Britain sleep for fewer than six hours a night, according to the Sleep Council, with modern life blamed for problems nodding off. Light pollution and the glare from smartphones and tablets mimic daylight, disrupting the release of melatonin, the rest hormone, and altering our sleep patterns.
Health and lifestyle problems are also known to affect sleep, including obesity, excessive alcohol and sugary drink consumption, smoking, lack of physical activity, mental health problems, stress at work, shift work, financial concerns and long commuting.
In the study, 823 people between the ages of 60 and 100 answered a 10-question survey on purpose in life and a 32-question survey on sleep, although the researchers said the findings applied to all ages.
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Those who felt their lives had meaning were 63 per cent less likely to have sleep apnoea and 52 per cent less likely to have restless leg syndrome. They also had moderately better sleep quality, a global measure of sleep disturbance.
Sleep apnoea is a common disorder that increases with age in which a person has shallow breathing or pauses in breathing during sleep several times per hour. Restless leg syndrome causes uncomfortable sensations in the legs and an irresistible urge to move them.
It is estimated that insufficient sleep among the British working population costs the economy up to 40 billion pounds (66 billion Canadian dollars) a year through lost working hours.
The new study was published in the journal Sleep, Science and Practice. The team now wants to see if mindfulness-based therapies to improve purpose can also improve sleep quality.