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Finding Meaning in Sleep Might Improve How Well People Can Sleep

A new psychological study from Northwestern Medicine in Chicago in conjunction with the Rush University medical facility found that there is a significant point that might impact how well a person is able to sleep. In particular, one’s overall meaning or purpose for life may hold the key to having a better night’s sleep.

More than 800 people age 60 or older were studied for a report that has been published in the most recent edition of the Sleep Science and Practice journal. The study went for about two years. The racial demographics of the participants were also mixed with about half of them being black. Also, about three-quarters of the participants were women.

The study particularly comes as there are often concerns among older members of the population with regards to how they can get to sleep. It is estimated that at least a third of older adults have some form of issue that keeps them from being able to get to sleep normally. Such concerns are especially problematic among women and non-white members of the population, thus prompting the review to work with as diverse of a sample set as possible.

How the Study Worked

The study worked by having a series of people who participated answering a few questionnaires relating to sleep conditions. The questions particularly related to REM disruptions, restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea.

A psychological analysis of each person was also conducted. This entailed a separate questionnaire that involved looking at purpose. This involved looking at the overall purpose one holds in life and what one can do as a means of showing that there is a sense of control in one’s life in general. Much of this included an analysis of what one has done in the past and whether or not that person feels confident about it.

The sleep-related questionnaire was thorough in that it entailed 32 questions. The emotional test was ten questions long and was based off of the well-being measurement scale developed by Ryff and Keyes.

The two questionnaires were provided to each participant over an extended period of time. A second series of questionnaires were sent out about a year after the first one was conducted. A third series came a year after that.

General Findings

The findings in the study showed that there is a very strong relationship between having a purpose or meaning for life and having an easier time with getting a healthy amount of sleep. About 63 percent of people who showed that they have some kind of meaning in their life were less likely to suffer from sleep apnea than those who did not. About 52 percent of them also showed that they were less likely to experience restless leg syndrome.

Sleep apnea risks were also reduced. At the start of the study, 346 of the participants were seen as having a higher risk for sleep apnea. That total dropped to 225 after two years.

There was also a trend in how people were able to improve upon their sleeping habits after managing their emotional and mental needs. Those whose mental states positively improved over time were also able to get better amounts of sleep.

Much of this is being linked to the general amount of stress that one has in daily life. The findings revealed that those who are able to keep stresses down might feel better and have a better purpose for life, thus improving upon how they can get to sleep each night.

There was not much of a difference between people of different genders or races in terms of who was able to benefit the most off of improving upon their life meanings. All people showed some sense of improvement regardless of their demographics.

Mindfulness Therapy May Hold a Key

An important point about the study found that mindfulness therapy may be needed to help people with getting a better night’s sleep. This is a drug-free form of treatment that could be used to help with understanding the purpose that someone has in life. It helps people to focus on what that purpose might be and to explore ways how one can attain that purpose in a sensible manner.

This psychological concept may be critical to understanding how well people are able to handle a number of emotional and mental functions. This also works without the use of any drugs, an important consideration given that many older people may be at risk of harm from some drugs.

Positive psychology is being promoted as a possible avenue to helping people with getting enough sleep in their lives. This is especially to help with reducing the likelihood of developing certain medical issues over a period of time due to not being able to get enough sleep.

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