People who feel lonely have a greater likelihood of suffering from restless, disruptive sleep, according to findings of a new study from the University of Chicago that were recently published in the journal Sleep.
Feelings of loneliness do not necessarily stem from being physically isolated, but often arise from social isolation. The study authors define loneliness as being “the painful experience that accompanies a discrepancy between a person’s desired and actual social relationships.”
The results of the study suggest that while lonely sleepers get about the same amount of sleep as other people and don’t feel tired the next day, they toss and turn, and wake more frequently. However, the study found nothing to suggest that fitful sleep was due to stress, anxiety, or depression. In fact, among those who felt lonely, sleep disruptions were experienced regardless of their mood.
Lead study author Lianne Kurina, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Chicago stated, “Negative affect was actually not associated with sleep fragmentation….What I found most surprising was that even subtle differences in the feelings of loneliness showed up in the sleep.”
Previous research has indicated that experiencing frequent sleep disruptions can promote biological changes that can have ill effects on overall health. The latest study only adds to this evidence, and the results may help to explain why people who suffer from feelings of loneliness have a greater tendency to suffer from more health issues.
For their analysis, the researchers turned to a community of Hutterites. This is a group of rural families living in the Dakotas who practice Anabaptism, a form of christianity similar to that of the Amish and the Mennonites. The Hutterites live a communal existence in which they eat and work in large family groups, as well as share all goods and capital.
The study participants ranged in age from 19 to 84, with all obviously coming from the same socioeconomic background, as well as having similar diets and family backgrounds, where smoking is not allowed. These variables were easily ruled out for purposes of the study.Level of Sleep Disruption – Page 2