How optimism helps you sleep better and live longer

Research has proven time and time again that optimists live longer than pessimists. In fact, one 2019 study found that they live 11 to 15 percent longer than pessimistic folks on average. But what exactly is it about a sunny disposition that leads to a longer life?

There are a lot of theories out there. It could be that optimists are better at coping with stress and bouncing back from negative events. It could be that optimists are more likely to adopt healthy lifestyle habits. Or It could something else completely…

Scientists are the first to admit they don’t have a clear idea of how optimism leads to a longer life. But a new study just revealed another clue…

This study found that optimists sleep way better than pessimists, and it could be that quality time in the sack that leads to better health and longevity.

Optimism slashes your insomnia risk by 70 percent

High-quality sleep is a critical component of optimum health. And it turns out, optimistic people are getting way better sleep than their pessimistic counterparts.

A new study from researchers at the Medical University of Vienna’s Division of Epidemiology found that optimists are way less likely to suffer from insomnia and other sleep disorders.

In the study, researchers looked at data from a 2017 online sleep survey that included 1,004 people. The survey asked questions related to sleep and other lifestyle factors like people’s work situation and their habits before going to bed. Here’s what they found…

Optimists were 70 percent less likely to suffer from insomnia or other sleep disorders… 70 percent! That’s a remarkable difference.

Researchers believe better sleep may be behind optimists’ long life span. But that doesn’t mean the theories I mentioned earlier don’t play a role in the health and longevity of optimists as well. In fact, researchers believe all of these factors are related to one another.

“Other studies have shown that optimists take more exercise, smoke less and eat a healthier diet. On top of that, they have better strategies for coping with problems and experience less stress in challenging situations. All these factors could contribute to better quality sleep,” says study researcher Jakob Weitzer.

Try this simple method for becoming an optimist

The problem with pessimism is that it may feel like it’s out of your control. I know a lot of us feel like we were born pessimists or optimists… or at the very least learned to be that way at a very young age. But the good news is, it’s absolutely possible to retrain your brain toward optimism.

There are a lot of ways to go about doing that — reciting positive affirmations, getting cognitive behavioral therapy and practicing mindfulness. But one simple technique you can use is called the “Best Possible Self” method.

The “Best Possible Self” method involves taking time daily to imagine what your best possible life could look like and writing down what you imagine. Then based on what you imagine, you set realistic goals for an optimistic future.

This practice isn’t necessarily about achieving some idealized version of your life, but about training your mind to think about life in a positive light. If you practice it for a few weeks, you should notice optimism brewing more naturally in your brain. That’ll make you sleep better, feel healthier and (hopefully) live longer too.

Sources:

  1. Here’s a new reason to be an optimist: You’re likely to live longer, study says — The Washington Post.
  2. Optimistic people sleep better — MedicalXpress.
  3. The contribution of dispositional optimism to understanding insomnia symptomatology: Findings from a cross‐sectional population study in Austria — Journal of Sleep Research.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.