Optimists Sleep Better at Night

Do you ever wake up in the night and worry about what the future might hold?

Well, if you’re an optimist, maybe not.

A new study published in the Journal of Sleep Research indicates that viewing the world through rose-colored glasses may go hand-in-hand with a lower risk for chronic insomnia. If that’s the case, better sleep may be the latest among the many mental and physical health benefits that have been linked to optimism – even when that optimism is unrealistic.

In the study, an international team of researchers surveyed 1,004 adults in Austria, finding that those who were more optimistic were less likely to report symptoms of chronic insomnia. For example, the odds of people in the most optimistic third of study participants having chronic insomnia were 28 percent those of people in the least optimistic third.

The design of the study did not allow researchers to assess whether optimism itself was the cause of optimists’ undisturbed sleep.

But the researchers did find find one factor that partly explained the statistical link between optimism and sleep: happiness. That is, study participants who were more optimistic were happier, and those who were happier experienced less insomnia.

The news here is not just that optimists are sleeping well, which is good for optimists but doesn’t matter much for everyone else. Rather, it’s that interventions that promote optimism could, theoretically, have consequences for sleep as well.

As the authors of the study on optimism and insomnia point out, cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to improve chronic insomnia. It’s worth exploring, then, whether therapies that focus more explicitly on optimism might further help.

In the authors’ words: “Promoting dispositional optimism could represent a simple and accessible strategy to improve sleep quality and lower insomnia risk, with downstream beneficial health effects.”

Of course, more research is needed to confirm that idea, but for now, there’s no reason we can’t be optimistic about what that research will show!