Searching for a solid night of sleep? Consider what motivates you to get out of bed in the morning.

New research published in the journal Sleep Science and Practice shows that people with a strong sense of purpose in life reported having fewer difficulties with sleep as older adults.

Researchers examined surveys collected from more than 800 people ages 60 to 100. The assessments were designed to measure the participants’ sleep quality along with their motivations in life.

The study consisted of a 32-question survey on sleep patterns and a 10-question assessment on purpose. The sleep survey included inquiries on symptoms of sleep apnea (a disorder that occasionally pauses breathing during sleep), insomnia and restless leg syndrome (a condition that causes people to excessively move their legs, and gets worse at night).

The assessment prompted volunteers to answer statements like, “I feel good when I think of what I’ve done in the past and what I hope to do in the future” and, “Some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them.”

People who had a greater sense of purpose were less likely to exhibit symptoms of sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome, according to the survey results. They also reported getting better sleep quality in general compared with those who had less purpose in life.

The study offers a slight bit of good news for those who suffer from these sleep disorders, which regularly cause issues with consistent sleep or even insomnia. Generating a sense of purpose may help abate restless nights, according to senior study author Jason Ong, an associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University.

“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,” he said in a statement. “Purpose in life is something that can be cultivated and enhanced through mindfulness therapies.”

Of course, this research comes with a caveat. The study only found an association between life motivations and sleep quality, meaning that the two occurred at the same time, but there’s no way to tell if one caused the other. The study was also done on a specific age demographic, so there isn’t any data as to whether this applies to a younger population. The researchers did note that it’s likely these findings could apply to anyone, though.

When it comes down to it, anything is worth a try ― especially considering the fact that, as Ong pointed out, insomnia and other sleep issues tend to increase as people get older. Clinicians also prefer to use drug-free treatments for sleep issues, Ong said. And if you’re looking for some other suggestions to get better sleep, consider one of these tricks. 

It sure beats counting sheep, anyway.

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