If “Always look on the bright side of life” is your motto, we have some good news for you. Optimism and better health outcomes go hand in hand, and many scientists have hypothesized that it may be due to more efficient restorative processes. Sleep is a time when our bodies and minds repair all the damages, and therefore our nightly rest is one of the most important restorative processes.
Researchers at the University of Illinois wanted to see how optimism affected sleep, and whether we could see an increase in quality and duration in optimistic people.
The team followed 3548 participants aged 32-51 who participated in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. In two instances, five years apart, participants filled a survey to help researchers asses their optimism levels.
All participants also filled a Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index and Epworth Sleepiness Scale to assess their quality of sleep during the prior month. The survey helped gain insight into how many hours participants had each night, as well as difficulty falling asleep, nighttime awakenings, and more insomnia symptoms.
Data showed that participants with higher optimism scores also experienced adequate sleep, resting six to nine hours every night. And additionally, they were 74% less likely to exhibit symptoms of insomnia and experience daytime sleepiness.
Failing to get adequate sleep regularly increases the risk of developing many conditions like cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, and many more. And when you think about the fact that 1 in 3 people in the US doesn’t get enough sleep, you understand how dangerous the situation is.
That is why experts are trying everything they can to help people experience better nightly rest. And although optimism seems to work, achieving it isn’t something you can simply do.
Describing the exact mechanisms that allow optimism to affect sleep won’t be easy. Researchers suggest that it probably has something to do with optimistic people developing healthy ways to cope with stress. That allows them to process stressful events more efficiently and get adequate rest.
The team published their findings in the Behavioral Medicine journal. Their results were in line with the team’s prior studies, which showed optimists to have better heart health.
Although there was a significant positive correlation between optimism and sleep quality, the authors suggest that we should interpret these results with caution. There are more studies needed to draw definite conclusions and find out the mechanisms behind this link. In the meantime, positive thinking doesn’t hurt anybody, so maybe it is time we try to change how we perceive life.