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New Study Shows Link Between Feelings of Purpose in Life and Better Sleep

 New research from a study conducted at Northwestern University in Chicago has found that a sense of purpose in life could help people sleep better. The study looked at over 800 people ages 60 to 100. Question about sleep quality and motivations in life were the core focus of the study and the researchers discovered that those who felt their lives had more meaning were actually less likely to have sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome along with a higher quality of sleep overall. The new study was published in the journal of Sleep Science and Practice.

Sleep Apnea, Other Sleep Problems and the Over 60 Population

According to the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center, approximately one in four people over the age of 60 are affected by sleep apnea. Their statistics show that young adults wake from sleep on average five times a night while those over age 60 often wake up as many as 150 times a night.

The most common complaint for those over 65 when it comes to sleep problems is insomnia. This is likely caused by illness, medications, depression and in some cases, a sleep disorder.

One of the most commons sleep disorders in the aging population is Obstructive Sleep Apnea according to Dr. David Buck, DDS, a dentist in Washington who specializes in treating sleep apnea patients.

"When the tissue in the back of the throat collapses while asleep, air is obstructed from entering the lungs," he said. "Because the symptoms occur mostly during sleep, many people are unaware they have sleep apnea. Daytime symptoms include drowsiness and waking with a headache or sore throat."

Other Forms of Sleep Disorders Among Older Americans 

One of the most common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring. On the other hand, central sleep apnea sufferers may not experience snoring at all. In this form of sleep apnea, nothing physical is blocking the airway. Instead, the brain doesn’t signal to the lungs to take in air. This form of sleep apnea is common among older people, especially those with heart disease or who have had a stroke in the past.

Advanced sleep phase syndrome occurs when the body begins waking up as early as three or four in the morning. It can occur as bedtimes get earlier or naps occur later in the day which simply turn into a full night’s sleep. Once the body gets on this cycle it can be hard to break.

Restless Leg Syndrome is characterized by movement of the limbs during sleep.  Usually jerky, periodic movements that occur the more one is at rest. A similar disorder, very common in the over 60 population, is called periodic limb movement disorder. It’s noted by uncontrollable, repetitive muscle movements such as the big toe extending or the ankle or knee bending slightly. It usually only lasts 20 to 40 seconds, according to the UCLA Sleep Center, but it can make sleep very difficult and interrupted.

Life Purpose Study Gives Hope

More research must be conducted in order to pinpoint a strong correlation in this research. However, seeking a greater purpose in life could be a great start for those suffering from sleep problems. It certainly is a great way to improve one’s quality of life even if it doesn’t solve all sleep troubles.

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