(dailyRx News) Being lonely can be heartbreaking - but it can also lead to trouble sleeping. The feelings of loneliness might break up a normal night's sleep, creating added distress for those who feel lonely.
Compromised sleep may be one pathway in which feeling lonely could negatively affect your health.
Lianne Kurina, PhD, of the Department of Health Studies at the University of Chicago, led a study that compared loneliness with sleep cycles in 95 adults living in rural South Dakota. None of the participants were socially isolated, but they all experiences varying degrees of loneliness.
Those who had higher loneliness scores were linked to significantly higher levels of fragmented sleep. "What we found was that loneliness does not appear to change the total amount of sleep in individuals, but awakens them more times during the night," Kurina said. She added that the relationship between loneliness and restless sleep appears to operate across a range of connectedness.
“We wanted to explore one potential pathway for this, the theory that sleep – a key behavior to staying healthy – could be compromised by feelings of loneliness."
The total amount of sleep and the degree of daytime sleepiness were not associated with feeling lonely in the participants.
Loneliness has been associated with other adverse effects on health, and the findings of this study were similar to a 2002 study which found that the more loneliness was felt by college students, the more their sleep was broken up during the night. Social isolation may compromise our feelings of security in the social environment, that enables us to sleep soundly.
The findings were published in the November 2011 issue of the journal SLEEP.