We sleep better when we stay happy

Sleeping monkey.jpg

Getting a good night's sleep can be so elusive for some of us, and yet so easy for others. There are many reasons why so many of us don' t sleep as well as we would like to.

Much of the focus has been on our overstimulated brains that find it increasingly difficult to find the "off" switch. But it is more than having too busy brains, or the amount of alcohol we consume, or our sleep regimen: it can also include how happy we are.

When we are in a positive mood, happy about things, we tend to sleep better. Having a more positive affect is associated with lower stress levels and lower stress levels correlate with better sleep.

But researchers from analysing the data from 100 middle aged subjects as part of a longitudinal study examining the midlife, have discovered that our previously held beliefs of happiness meaning good sleep vs. unhappiness meaning bad sleep need to be revised.

Because it is the fragility of our happiness that also makes a difference.

Our happiness levels are far more complex in their impact on our sleep patterns than was previously recognised. 

If you are a relatively happy person for most of the time, then your sleep quality will also be more stable. 

However if your happiness swings more easily in reaction to other life events then your fragility to changing circumstances and the level of happiness you experience can have a negative effect on your sleep quality. 

While being unhappy is never a good place to be, and is associated with poorer sleep patterns, it appears that experiencing greater emotional stability even of our positive emotions matters a lot too. 

The message? It is keeping our happiness stable that counts, through learning how to take the rough with the smooth but not swinging wildly in  temperament.

So if you are someone who considers themselves happy overall but recognise that you can easily get sidetracked by your emotions, perhaps you can look for ways to minimise that roller-coaster effect so that your sleep stays intact. Our brain has always been a bit of a diva needing balance in all things to function at it's best and that includes emotional temperament.


A. D. Ong , D. Exner-Cortens , C. Riffin , A. Steptoe , A. Zautra , D. M. Almeida  Linking Stable and Dynamic Features of Positive Affect to Sleep Annals of Behavioral Medicine March 2013 DOI: 10.1007/s12160-013-9484-8