Optimism may be key to significantly improving sleep quality

Optimists get better sleep than the rest of us, according to a new study out of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Researchers evaluated more than 3,500 people to assess both optimism and sleep habits, finding that people who are more optimistic about life's circumstances are also far more likely to get higher quality, longer duration sleep.

The study evaluated adults ages 35 to 51 from destinations throughout the United States. After adjusting for various factors that may have influenced sleep quality and duration, including health problems, the team found that optimism is significantly linked with an optimistic person's self-reported sleep tendencies.

The researchers found that optimistic participants experienced higher quality sleep, with that quality increasing by 78-percent for each standard deviation in the participants' optimism test scores. As well, optimistic people were more likely to get at least 'adequate' sleep, were 74-percent less likely to experience insomnia, and they experienced less sleepiness during their waking hours.

It's unclear how optimism may be linked to improved sleep quality, but the researchers speculate it may have something to do with reducing stress that would otherwise lead to disturbed sleep. University of Illinois professor of social work Rosalba Hernandez explained:

Optimists are more likely to engage in active problem-focused coping and to interpret stressful events in more positive ways, reducing worry and ruminative thoughts when they're falling asleep and throughout their sleep cycle.

A number of studies over the years have linked optimism with various health benefits, helping people cope with life's troubles and generally live longer with lower odds of developing certain diseases, including helping protect the cardiovascular system by reducing high blood pressure risk.