Do you often feel like an outcast, regardless of how many friends you have? Or, do you pine for that feeling of “belonging”? Maybe you find yourself alone at night a few too many times throughout the week. Given the holidays are in full swing, you might be having these emotions even more often. Well, it turns out feeling lonely could have adverse effects on your health, beginning with restless sleep and long nights
. Researchers have recently learned more about a strong link between one's loneliness and sleep quality.Details of the Study
The study's lead author Lianne Kurina, Ph.D. of the Department of Health Services at the University of Chicago, explains that the relationship between loneliness and poor sleep quality
appears to operate across the range of perceived connectedness. This means that the more connected a person feels with his or her surroundings, the higher the chance of experiencing better quality of sleep.
Kurina, alongside her colleagues, studied a closely knit group of 95 adults from rural South Dakota, and compared their varying degrees of loneliness with their sleep cycle measurements. Although none of the individuals were social outcasts, each person's perception of loneliness varied; and many of them reported feeling isolated from the rest of the group. Those who experienced intense loneliness also scored much higher levels of fragmented sleep. While the quality of sleep
was affected, the results showed that the total amount of sleep
and the level of daytime sleepiness were not impacted, and most individuals in the study slept for the same amount of time.
Curiously, the report, which was published in a recent issue of the online journal SLEEP
, was similar to another study dating back to 2002 that was published by the American Psychological Society. This older report also compared loneliness and its effect on the quality of sleep, although this time it focused on college students. Again, the results showed that the lonelier a student felt, the more often that their sleep was broken up during the night.Loneliness vs. Social Isolation
These two studies point out the direct connection between feelings of loneliness and the adverse affect it can have on your health. However, it is important to note that there is a difference between “social isolation,” and actual loneliness. An individual can have many great friends and still feel lonely, or they can choose to be isolated from social circles and feel content. A New Understanding
A string of recent findings are furthering our understanding of how social and psychological factors can affect us on a biological level and impact our health – and this sleep/loneliness connection is no exception. Feelings of insecurity, whether experienced by new students at a large university or an elderly person spending their first night in their new nursing home, all tie us together on a level that goes much deeper than it may seem on the surface.