With our increasingly fast-paced society and high-pressure schedules, it should be no surprise that 40% of disability worldwide is due to depression and anxiety.
Most people would agree that sleep is inextricably linked to our overall happiness. So does sleep really have an effect on our happiness levels?
In a survey of 2,000 people by Mattress Company Amerisleep, they found that people who rated themselves as ‘perfectly happy’ get, on average, 7 hours and 6 minutes of sleep a night.
So, how does sleep improve our happiness?
A night’s sleep consists of 4-5 cycles of 90-120 minutes where we meander back and forth through what is known as a non-rapid eye movement (NREM) state and rapid eye movement state (REM). The first part of the night we spend more time in the deeper NREM states. This is when our body is focusing on more of the physical repair time, making a host of different growth hormones and turning down other hormones for our body to get the optimal rest it needs, so that it can function at its best the next day.
Our brains are switched “on” throughout the whole night, and a lot more active than most people would think. Though it does more of its active work in the dream-heavy REM sleep, which happens mostly in the second half of the night. This is where more psychological repair happens.
So that’s means a good night’s sleep will make you happier, right?
Not necessarily. What we have to realise, is that from an evolutionary perspective, happiness is based on an internal reward system that acts as a biological incentive to repeat beneficial behaviours that will make you happy. So for example, if you feel happy after doing a particular type of workout, you’ll probably go and do more of that type of workout in the future, knowing that it will make you happy when you do it. Make sense?
So it’s not really about the quantity of sleep. Yes, we humans need sleep to live and function. But what a lot of people don’t know, or misunderstand about sleep, is how important it is to get the right quality of sleep.
You only have to look around the world to see that people sleep in different sleep patterns.
The most common is a Monophasic pattern, which means one sleep during the night, which most of us do, 11pm to 7am for example. Then we have those that sleep in a Biphasic pattern. Think Mediterranean countries, whereby they have a siesta in the middle of the day and then a shorter night’s sleep compared with the Monophasic pattern. We also have, although rarer, a Polyphasic pattern, which consists of several periods of say 2-3 hours of sleep, which you often find very creative people follow.
In a study conducted for the Edinburgh International Science Festival, scientists discovered a surprising link between taking short naps and happiness.
What they found was, short nappers who dozed for less than 30 minutes at a time were more likely to be happier than either “long nappers” or “no nappers”. They called it “Nappiness”!
See when you are living a life that makes you happy, then the chances of you sleeping better should improve. Just as much as getting a good’s night sleep will allow you to have more energy and do the things that make you happy.
It’s a chicken, egg thing really!
Happy people get this much sleep – https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/healthtrending/happy-people-get-this-much-sleep/ar-BBCJAXg
Pursuit of happiness catches people napping – https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/pursuit-of-happiness-catches-people-napping-nhnkrjtkq