The Hard Facts: A Lonely Night’s Sleep

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“Loneliness is not only heartbreaking, it breaks up a normal night’s sleep, a new study shows … [According to a recent study] higher loneliness scores were linked to significantly higher levels of fragmented sleep.” (“How Lonely You Are May Impact How Well You Sleep, Research Says” ; 11/01/2011)

Here’s what I find so interesting about this study. The researchers set out to see how loneliness affects sleep patterns, because we already know that it affects health in general, and sleep is a key behavior to staying healthy. What they found–here’s the interesting part–is that being lonely doesn’t affect the amount you sleep, it just breaks up your sleep. In other words, if you’re lonely, you can expect to wake up a bunch throughout the night.

The reserchers are also quick to point out that these lonely individuals were not socially isolated. There’s a difference. “‘Loneliness and social isolation are two distinct concepts,'[study author Lianne] Kurina said. ‘Loneliness reflects perceived social isolation or feelings of being an outcast, the often-painful discrepancy between a person’s desired and actual social relationships.'”

When I started my quest almost two years ago, I would have never admitted to loneliness. It sounded so depressing, and I would have never accepted that label. But looking at the definition above, I definitely identify. I had plenty of social connections–I had best friends everywhere, it seemed, other than Chicago–but I felt socially isolated because I didn’t have enough pals near by. I didn’t have the social relationships that I desired.

All that said, I’ve always slept like a log. As I recently told someone, “My favorite thing about myself is that I sleep soundly through the night. I never wake up.” It’s a strange favorite trait, but it is one thing I would never change. (I know, I know, all you mothers out there. Wait until you’re pregnant, you’re thinking. Ugh.) If anything, I sleep too soundly. Last night I slept a ridiculous 9.5 hours. Who does that? (I know, I know, high class problems.)

So, just your weekly reminder to go out there and make connections. Or stop to appreciate the connections you already have, so you can shake off those feelings of loneliness.

Your undereye bags will thank you.

Do your emotions–feelings of lonelines, or even anger, sadness, heartbreak–affect your sleep patterns? How?


Filed under The Search

2 responses to “The Hard Facts: A Lonely Night’s Sleep

  1. Love this! I’m definitely lonely in this city that’s almost a million miles from home. It doesn’t feel like my sleep has been effected much, but mostly because I leave at 7:30am for work and leave immediately from work to some event or drinks or group meeting and don’t get home until 10 or 11. I’m so damn busy trying to make friends. I might not have met my BFF here in Auckland yet, but if you ARE lonely, staying busy might help. Because by the time I get home from my social escapades I sleep like a log too 😉

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