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Can Positive Thinking Help You Sleep Better?

Your outlook on life can affect how well you sleep.

Positive thinking and better sleep

One out of every three American adults gets less than the recommended seven hours of sleep each night, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Given the link between adequate sleep and the prevention of a number of chronic health conditions, from high blood pressure to diabetes, it is exciting whenever new research emerges that sheds light on how we can improve both the duration and quality of our nightly slumber.

A recent study by social work researchers at the University of Illinois reports a finding that will be enthusiastically received by anyone working to cultivate a positive outlook on life—optimistic people get more, and better, sleep than those who are not positive thinkers. According to one study, optimistic adults between ages 45 and 84 were twice as likely to have excellent heart health.

In the study, more than 3,000 participants completed surveys that characterized their optimism by rating their agreement with positive and negative statements and painted a picture of their sleep habits by assessing insomnia, difficulty falling asleep and sleep duration. 

The data was collected twice over a five-year period, and some of the participants took part in a scientific sleep study where they wore sleep monitors for three consecutive days. They did this twice, with one year between assessments.

Those participants who the survey had measured as having an optimistic outlook were 74 percent more likely to report no insomnia and less daytime sleepiness than those whose questionnaires revealed a less positive outlook.

While more research is needed to confirm an association between positivity, better sleep, and improved health, Rosabela Hernandez, the lead researcher, called “dispositional optimism—the belief that positive things will occur in the future—” a promising area of study.

She said, “Optimists are more likely to engage in active problem-focused coping and to interpret stressful events in more positive ways, reducing worry and ruminative thoughts when they’re falling asleep and throughout their sleep cycle.” 

Makes you want to dream positive dreams tonight, doesn’t it? 

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