Great Sleep Habits Can Feel the Same as Winning the Lottery

Maintaining healthy sleep patterns can be like hitting the jackpot. Well, sort of. (Photo: Getty Images)
Maintaining healthy sleep patterns can be like hitting the jackpot. Well, sort of. (Photo: Getty Images)

You have a better chance of getting hit by lightning than winning the lottery — but you have a far greater chance of getting a good night’s sleep. And high-quality shuteye feels just like winning the lottery, according to new research by the University of Warwick in the U.K., so this is definitely something to invest in.

Researchers studied a substantial group of participants — 30,500 U.K. residents — over the course of four years and found that healthy sleep patterns, including a decrease in sleep-aid medication, led subjects to have the mental and physical well-being of a person who had won a windfall of £200,000, or about $247,100.

Healthy sleep habits are directly connected to improved health and happiness. And when it comes to sleep, it’s quality over quantity all the way. The quality of your sleep, more than the number of hours you get, impacts your physical and psychological well-being, not immediately but over time, says Nicole Tang, the study’s main author and an associate professor in Warwick’s Department of Psychology, so commitment to healthy habits is important too.

The scientists used the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) — a popular survey in the mental health industry — to determine the physical and emotional states of participants; those who had maintained positive sleep patterns scored higher. They also did better in the “12-Item Short Form Survey, which tests levels of physical and emotional health, as well as people’s ability to perform everyday activities,” according to the article.

Not surprisingly, poor sleep hygiene and bad habits — such as late bedtimes and the use of sleep aids — had the exact opposite effect on subjects. It led to worsened emotional and mental states, according to the study, proving the connection is very clear.

Tang advocates eradicating sleep medication altogether, and of course practicing good sleep habits every night, in order to get a healthy night’s sleep. In fact, she says, sleep issues are a matter of public health and should be treated seriously. “We are far from demonstrating a causal relationship, but the current findings suggest that a positive change in sleep is linked to better physical and mental well-being further down the line.”

According to the National Sleep Foundation, healthy sleep habits include sticking to a regular bedtime and wake-up schedule, practicing a relaxing bedtime ritual that includes eliminating bright lights and anything that causes anxiety, avoiding naps, sleeping on comfortable mattresses and bedding, and lowering the heat in your bedroom to between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit at night.

And you don’t need to have sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, to take Tang’s advice to heart. “It is refreshing to see the healing potential of sleep outside of clinical trial settings, as this goes to show that the benefits of better sleep are accessible to everyone and not reserved for those with extremely bad sleep requiring intensive treatments,” she was quoted as saying.

But the research doesn’t end there. Scientists will be digging further into this public health issue. As Tang said, “An important next step is to look at the differences between those who demonstrate a positive and negative change in sleep over time and identify what lifestyle factors and day-to-day activities are conducive to promoting sleep. Further research in this area can inform the design of public health initiatives.”

Want to hit the jackpot right away? Start now. Winter is the perfect time to start practicing a disciplined sleep regimen. It can fight off Seasonal Affective Disorder, “a type of depression that’s common in the winter months,” says the National Sleep Foundation. Keeping a healthy diet, staying active, and making sure you’re exposed to daylight are other healthy habits you can pick up to keep you feeling rich. Of course, inner peace will be your actual fortune, but apparently it’ll feel just as good as cold, hard cash.

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