Motivated adults sleep better at night

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Older adults who have a good reason to get out of bed sleep better at night, researchers report.

Academics at Northwestern Medicine and Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, studied over 800 people with an average age of 79 and surveyed their purposes in life and general sleep quality.

Overall, those participants who felt their lives had meaning were 63 per cent less likely to have sleep apnea, a condition characterised by pauses in breathing or periods of shallow breathing during sleep.

Meanwhile 52 per cent less were likely to have restless leg syndrome, which is a health conditioned that causes uncomfortable sensations in the legs and an irresistible urge to move them. Symptoms commonly occur in the late afternoon or evening hours and are often most severe at night when a person is resting, such as sitting or lying in bed.

"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," said senior author, Associate Professor Jason Ong. "Purpose in life is something that can be cultivated and enhanced through mindfulness therapies."

Individuals have more sleep disturbances and insomnia as they get older. Experts now prefer to use non-drug interventions to improve patients' sleep, a practice recommended by the American College of Physicians as a first line treatment for insomnia, Ong added.

Although the participants in the study were older, researchers said the findings are likely applicable to the broader public. And they hope to use the findings to investigate whether the mindfulness-based therapies can be used to boost sleep quality.

The full study has been published journal Sleep Science and Practice.

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