Have you ever wondered why some people always seem to see the bright side of a situation? Although we once thought of traits such as optimism as a product of nurture, we now know that this is not the case. Upbringing and environment may play a role, but how we view the world around us is also partly genetic. Your levels of optimism and pessimism can affect a great deal of your life, from your career to your relationships to the way you relate to others. A new study suggests that optimism affects sleep as well.
New Research: Optimism Affects Sleep Quality and Quantity
Insomnia and other sleep disorders are some of the most common health issues of our times, and they are on the rise. There are certain things you can do to improve sleep, such as hanging blackout curtains and keeping a regular schedule. According to new research, keeping a bright outlook may also positively affect your sleep.
Researchers assembled a group of more than 3500 volunteers. These study participants took a survey intended to assess their level of optimism. They then wore monitors to measure their length and quality of sleep.
The volunteers who scored high on the scale of optimism slept far better than pessimists — an average of 78 percent better. They were also 74 percent less likely to have insomnia and more likely to sleep through the night. This was true even after adjusting for health conditions, wealth and other factors known to affect sleep.
This study does not make a statement on cause and effect. However, the correlation is clear. People who score higher on optimism are consistently getting better sleep and more of it. Whether the great night of sleep is causing a sunny outlook or vice-versa is unknown, but the relationship is clear.
Links Between Mood, Mental Health and Sleep
This is not the first study to find a mind-body connection in the area of sleep. Even small amounts of sleep deprivation can cause negative changes in mood, making us more prone to irritation and negative emotions. Conversely, disorders such as depression and anxiety can keep you from sleeping well.
Because of this inherent connection, treatment for mood disorders such as depression and anxiety often includes treating any underlying sleep disorders. This can be done with simple lifestyle changes or with prescription sleep medication if necessary. Conversely, doctors who treat insomnia often use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Mindfulness Meditation, and other forms of psychological therapy to help people get the sleep they need.
Although we do not understand the complexities of the relationship between sleep and mood, the relationship is clear. If you want to get a great night of sleep, it is important to find ways to see the glass as half-full.
Are You Suffering From Insomnia?
Whether a pessimist or an optimist, many suffer from sleep disorders without even realizing the problem. If you persistently feel tired or down during the day, ask yourself if you have any of these telltale symptoms of poor sleep:
- taking a long time (more than around 15 minutes) to fall asleep at night
- waking throughout the night or too early in the morning
- feeling fatigue and sleepiness throughout the day
- napping or having regular strong urges to nap
- changes in mood, such as feeling more irritable, anxious or depressed than normal
- suffering from accidents or simply feeling clumsier than usual
- losing interest in normal activities, such as socializing and sex
- increased headaches, stomachaches and other physical symptoms
These symptoms of insomnia are also common signs of depression and anxiety. There is such a large overlap between insomnia and other mood disorders that it can be hard even for the sufferer to tell them apart. If you find that you are suffering from these issues on a regular basis, you should consider getting evaluated for both sleep disorders and mood disorders.
Getting the Rest You Need for Happiness and Health
Sleep is essential for keeping your spirits high, but it is also important for your physical health. If you find that you are struggling to get the sleep you need, simple behavioral changes often can make a difference.
Begin going to sleep at the same time every night and setting your alarm clock at the same time every day, even on weekends and other days off. Institute a sleep routine that is relaxing to prepare your mind for drifting off into slumber. Expose yourself to bright lights throughout the day and keep your bedroom as dark as possible at night.
Although this recent study proves that optimism affects sleep, even if you are not a natural optimist, simple changes to your sleep routine may pay off in both a better night of sleep and a better mood. Getting a good night of rest may be your first step to happier and healthier days.