No one *doesn’t* like being happy and joyful. But these days (looking at you, 2020), getting the most joy out of each day is almost a matter of survival. Unfortunately, the most common sources of joy and coping mechanisms are out of reach for many of us. We can’t indulge in long-distance travel, unguarded mingling with friends near and far, going out to (bustling) bars, restaurants, and movies, workout classes sans masks. But there is a simple lifestyle habit that can help you feel more joy from the same things that are available, according to new research.
The University of British Columbia researchers studied almost 2,000 subjects and discovered that after a night of shorter sleep, people respond more emotionally to stressful events the following day. These might be arguments, tensions, work and family stress, and even discrimination. (Ugh that we have to deal with all these, but this is the reality.) Previous research has shown that lack of resilience to stress increases inflammation and even the risk of premature death.
Sleep-deprived subjects also didn’t find as much joy in positive events like getting a hug or spending time in nature. “We found that when a person sleeps less than their usual amount, they don’t have as much of a boost in positive emotions from their positive events,” Nancy Sin, the lead author of the study, says. Sin recommends at least seven hours of sleep a night for most adults.
Something interesting is that adults with chronic health conditions gain an even larger joy-boosting benefit from sleep than healthy adults. So a good night’s sleep isn’t just a luxury for the wellness-obsessed—it’s even more critical for those whose baseline health is compromised.
How I prioritize sleep for joy
I have personally experienced the powerful health effects of getting adequate sleep. In 2017 or so, I was suffering from chronic inflammation manifesting as eczema on my chin and chest. At one point, I felt sure that I would have pink patches on my skin forever. After visiting doctors and feeling deeply frustrated by non-improvement, I visited an acupuncturist who said my liver was “full of toxins” and that the best way to help my liver was sleeping adequately. As soon as I started prioritizing sleep, my inflamed skin became noticeably better. I have been eczema-free ever since.
These made a huge difference for the quality of my sleep, especially toward morning.
No laptops or cellphones in the bedroom
I leave my cellphone in my kitchen and my laptop in the living room. If either of those things are with me in the bedroom at night, I at least try to put them far away from the bed and put the phone on silent.
Reading books—but not something that will keep me up at night
This is a loose rule. Don’t avoid a page-turner if you really have to find out what’s going on! There’s magic in staying up late reading a delicious new book. Having said that, I love falling asleep to a good yet somewhat soporific tome, most recently The Aeneid and William Norwich’s The Middle Sea. I dare you to stay awake for more than an hour reading either of those. (Everything happened so many years ago!)
Check out more sleep-inducing tips here:
Photo: Tyler Nix via Unsplash