Optimism and sleep

Two things you'd probably like anyway, plus 7 other things worth your time.

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“I obviously was not going to blast off in a rocket if this was some sort of Mickey Mouse travel outfit. But the more I inquired and the more I spoke with them directly, the more I realized they were the real deal. It was really possible. And that moment where you think, ‘Holy cow, this is something I could actually do,' it’s a bit of a surreal moment.”

—Mark Pathy, 51, CEO of Mavrik Corp., a Canadian investment firm, who paid $55 million to be among the four members of an all-private citizen spaceflight crew blasting to Earth orbit next year.


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11 to 15 percent

Here's some good news, especially if you're the kind of person who wants to sleep better and live longer. (Honestly, who doesn't fit into at least one of those two categories?)   

Let's start with living longer. An enormous study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences combined two research projects that examined data on a total of 71,173 people (some of them over 30 years), and found that having an optimistic outlook on life was associated with living significantly longer.

As much as 15 percent longer, which could easily translate to 10 years or more.

The researchers, from several institutions including Harvard, drew on data from the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study (NAS).

They found that maintaining an optimistic outlook was associated with greater longevity than their less-optimistic peers, regardless of other factors that we associate with longer life, such as:

  • making healthy choices (or lack thereof),

  • socioeconomic status,

  • health conditions,

  • incidence of depression, and

  • "social integration."

"Our results further suggest that optimism is specifically related to 11 to 15 percent longer life span, on average, and to greater odds of achieving 'exceptional longevity,' that is, living to the age of 85 or beyond," the study's authors wrote.

I mean, that’s good news, right? Especially if you can train yourself to be the kind of person who instinctively looks on the bright side.

But wait, there's still more.

Separately, a five-year study of 3,500 people living in three different U.S. cities found that optimistic people fall asleep faster, sleep better and longer, and are generally better rested than their less-optimistic peers.

Longer life and better sleep, what's not to like?

Now, at this point, I suspect that naysayers (and people who understand causation) will point out that the mere fact that people who are optimistic sleep better does not necessarily mean that the two are related.

I get that. But I also think that right now, nearly 11 months into a global pandemic with another six months at least to go—basically the equivalent of Mile 15 of a marathon—we could all use a little more looking on the bright side.

Besides, there’s a theory that the same behaviors make people more optimistic might also be the things that lead to more restful sleep (as opposed to the idea that optimism causes better sleep).

"Optimists are more likely to engage in active problem-focused coping and to interpret stressful events in more positive ways, reducing worry and ruminative thoughts when they're falling asleep and throughout their sleep cycle," said the study's author, Rosalba Hernandez, a professor of social work at the University of Illinois.

Either way: Sleep better, and live longer, and it's all associated with simply having a more optimistic outlook on life. Even if it's all a self-fulfilling prophesy, it's worth trying to adopt.


7 other things worth your time

  • President Biden, under intense pressure to speed up the pace of coronavirus vaccination, said Tuesday that his administration was nearing a deal with two manufacturers that would enable 300 million Americans to have their shots by the end of the summer. (NYT, $)

  • About 400 people have been charged in connection with the Capitol Hill riots, and federal authorities said they’re likely to start bringing charges of sedition, which carries a 20 year maximum prison sentence. (USA Today)

  • OK. Imagine it’s 30 years ago, and I told you that in 2021, the world’s two richest men would have a fight on Twitter over whose network of thousands of private satellites should get priority in the effort to bring wireless Internet access to rural areas. Which part of that sentence would have been the most confusing? (CNBC)

  • Separately, Etsy’s stock took off like an absolute rocket yesterday — $1 billion in market cap in just a minute or two — after Musk tweeted how much he liked a present he’d bought for his dog on the site. (Bloomberg)

  • Senators were sworn in for the impeachment of former President Trump yesterday, and 45 Republicans voted immediately to dismiss the case. Since this makes it pretty clear there’s no chance of a conviction, at least two senators are exploring the idea of a compromise censure resolution. Who knows? (Axios)

  • Got a drone? Now you can buy insurance in case it accidentally flies away. (The Verge)

  • Did you watch Game of Thrones? Remember how it had kind of a disappointing final season, which a lot of people said was because author George R.R. Martin hadn’t actually finished writing the book series before HBO adapted it? HBO says it’s doing it all over again: producing another show, based on another Martin series, that Martin also hasn’t finished yet. (Quartz)


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