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Positive Psychology and Sleep

What is positive psychology and how is it relevant to sleep?



For years, health research has focused on curing illness and preventing disease - taking away the bad things in our lives so that we can live more comfortably.

However, by focusing on all the things that go wrong for us and trying to reduce negative influences and stressors, we often forget about all the things that go right and forget about the positive influences and factors that help us to live happy and healthy lives.

Positive psychology recognises that it is just as important to promote the good as it is to alleviate the bad.

What if our levels of health and wellbeing can be better than just 'okay'? What if we can live happy and fulfilled lives?

By identifying factors that contribute to improved happiness and wellbeing, positive psychology aims to promote flourishing within individuals, communities and wider society.


Positive Psychology: How can we promote great sleep for everyone?


Traditional Health Research: How can we reduce disordered sleep in people with insomnia?


When it comes to improving health and wellbeing within the general population, sleep is irrefutably an important area of target.

Compared to individuals who get less than 6 hours of sleep per night, individuals who achieve the recommended 7-9 hours have:

  • Better cardiovascular health

  • Lower levels of inflammation and disease

  • Lower rates of obesity and diabetes

  • Improved immunity and healing

  • Decreased cancer risk and tumour growth

  • Improved cognitive capacity and memory function

  • Healthier ageing and reduced risk of Alzheimer's Disease

  • Decreased susceptibility to mental illness and suicidal ideation

  • Improved social and emotional functioning

  • Higher academic achievement and work-related performance

  • Decreased risk of car accidents and injury

In light of the above, it is clear that identifying factors related to good sleep quality and quantity could help to improve public health - especially when a third of adults are estimated to be getting less than 6 hours per night.

However, while we know a lot about reducing factors associated with bad sleep - e.g., caffeine, blue light, stress - we know far less about the factors we should be promoting to achieve good sleep.

This is where positive psychology comes in!


Due to the increased interest in the field, positive psychologists have started to uncover links between particular positive traits and better sleep outcomes.

Positive traits such as gratitude, self-compassion, optimism and mindfulness (and many more!), have now been shown to have positive associations with sleep quality and quantity. That means individuals who score highly on levels of these traits tend to sleep better (read my other posts to learn more about the links between each of these traits and sleep).

Consequently, helping people to cultivate positive traits could be key when it comes to promoting good sleep, and indeed, research is beginning to show that this is possible.

By integrating positive psychology-based approaches into current sleep practice, we may be able to provide individuals with easy, self-administrable and affordable methods through which to achieve the good night's sleep they deserve.



Boggiss, A. L., Consedine, N. S., Brenton-Peters, J. M., Hofman, P. L., & Serlachius, A. S. (2020). A systematic review of gratitude interventions: effects on physical health and health behaviors. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 135, 110165.

Brown, L., Houston, E. E., Amonoo, H. L., & Bryant, C. (2021). Is self-compassion associated with sleep quality? A meta-analysis. Mindfulness, 12(1), 82-91.

Chattu, V. K., Manzar, M. D., Kumary, S., Burman, D., Spence, D. W., & Pandi-Perumal, S. R. (2018). The global problem of insufficient sleep and its serious public health implications. In Healthcare (Vol. 7, No. 1, p. 1). MDPI.

Hernandez, R., Vu, T. H. T., Kershaw, K. N., Boehm, J. K., Kubzansky, L. D., Carnethon, M., ... & Liu, K. (2020). The association of optimism with sleep duration and quality: findings from the coronary artery risk and development in young adults (CARDIA) study. Behavioral Medicine, 46(2), 100-111.

Linley, P. A., Hendrickx, H., & Osborne, G. (2009). Finding the positive in sleep research. Journal of psychosomatic research, 66(1), 49-50.

Seligman, M. E., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). Positive psychology: An introduction. In Flow and the foundations of positive psychology (pp. 279-298). Springer, Dordrecht.

Shallcross, A. J., Visvanathan, P. D., Sperber, S. H., & Duberstein, Z. T. (2019). Waking up to the problem of sleep: can mindfulness help? A review of theory and evidence for the effects of mindfulness for sleep. Current Opinion in Psychology, 28, 37-41.

Wickwire, E. M. (2021). Toward a Positive Psychology of Sleep. Integrative Sleep Medicine, 195.

Wild, C. J., Nichols, E. S., Battista, M. E., Stojanoski, B., & Owen, A. M. (2018). Dissociable effects of self-reported daily sleep duration on high-level cognitive abilities. Sleep, 41(12).


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