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Purpose in Life is Linked With Sleep Quality


“Some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them.”

Would you agree with the statement above?

How did you sleep last night?

These two questions may seem unrelated, but a new study has demonstrated a link between purpose in life and a better night’s rest.

In the study, conducted by researchers at Northwestern University and published in Sleep Science and Practice, participants completed a lengthy sleep quality questionnaire and a 10-item measure of purpose in life that included items like the one above, and “I feel good when I think of what I’ve done in the past and what I hope to do in the future.”

It focused on older adults and African Americans, who are both known to have an increased risk of sleep disturbances. However, even when age, race, and other variables were controlled for, the results showed that a higher level of purpose was associated with better sleep.

It’s only a correlation, so it doesn’t necessarily mean that a sense of purpose causes better sleep. There could be other variables that were not controlled for, such as overall health, that both improve sleep and cause a sense of purpose. Getting more sleep could even cause a greater feeling of purpose. Still, it shows that people with a sense of meaning and direction tend to sleep better.

A lot of people gain purpose in life from their careers. As technology increasingly automates work and potentially leads to fewer people with long-term careers, I wonder if impaired sleep will be an unexpected side-effect.