Discovering your Purpose for Health!


Discovering your life’s purpose gives you meaning. When people get up each day to do their job with a sense of purpose, they become so passionate about it that they are eager to get out of bed every day to get started. According to a study based on older adults, conducted by Northwestern Medicine and Rush University Medical Center, having a good reason to get out of bed in the morning means you are more likely to sleep better at night with less sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome (Paul, 2017). 


A purpose in life is conceptualized as one’s sense of meaning and directness in life, essentially having aspirations and goals for the future (Ryff 2014). Previous works have shown that purpose in life is independently linked to numerous positive health outcomes and healthy behaviors, as well as longevity (Kim, Sun, Park & Peterson, 2013). 


Disturbances in sleep are common in older adults, with an estimated 40% of older adults suffering from a sleep disorder (Turner, Smith & Ong, 2017). In a series of hierarchical multiple linear regressions controlling for the demographic covariates of age, sex, race, and education, higher levels of purpose in life were associated with better sleep quality at baseline. Using longitudinal follow-up data, higher levels of purpose in life was associated with lower risk of sleep apnea at baseline, 1-year follow-up, and 2-year follow-up, as well as reduced symptoms of RLS at 1-year and 2-year follow-up. 


The study conducted had 823 participants, 60 to 100 years old, with an average age of 79 (Paul, 2017). For the study, participants answered a 10-question survey on purpose in life and a 32-question survey on sleep. In the survey, participants needed to rate their response to statements such as, “I feel good when I think of what I’ve done in the past and what I hope to do in the future.” People who felt their lives had meaning were 63 percent less likely to have sleep apnea and 52 percent less likely to have restless leg syndrome. They also had moderately better sleep quality, a global measure of sleep disturbance (Paul, 2017).


As clinicians prefer to use non-drug interventions to improve patients’ sleep, research should include the use of mindfulness-based therapies to target methods that improve sleep quality (Paul, 2017). According to Jason Ong, an associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, "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 insomnia” (Paul, 2017).


This study shows that having a purpose in life results in fewer sleep disturbances and improved sleep quality over an extended period of time. 


It has been suggested via clinical intervention that purpose in life is a construct that can be consciously cultivated and enhanced (Turner, Smith & Ong, 2017). A purpose in life, though trait-like, is dynamic and research suggests psychological and social influences induce a change in this construct (Turner, Smith & Ong, 2017). 


So, if you have sleep disturbances, be mindful. The first step to getting started discovering your purpose could be as easy as grabbing a pen and a piece of paper, sitting down, and then, asking yourself, "If I could spend my life doing something, what would that be?" 


Live with a purpose, do it for your health! 



Hamilton, N., Nelson, C., Stevens, N., & Kitzman, H. (2006). Sleep and psychological well-being. Social Indicators Research82(1), 147-163.

Kim, E., Sun, J., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2013). Purpose in life and reduced incidence of stroke in older adults: 'The Health and Retirement Study'. Journal Of Psychosomatic Research74(5), 427-432.

Paul, M. (2017). A purpose in life by day results in better sleep at night - Northwestern Retrieved 12 August 2017, from

Ryff, C. (2014). Psychological Well-Being Revisited: Advances in the Science and Practice of Eudaimonia. Psychotherapy And Psychosomatics83(1), 10-28.

Turner, A., Smith, C., & Ong, J. (2017). Is purpose in life associated with less sleep disturbance in older adults?. Sleep Science And Practice1(14).