Can sleep loss promote loneliness?

We know insufficient sleep can lead to an array of physical and psychological problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, depression and memory loss. But can it trigger loneliness and social isolation in individuals? That’s the conclusion of a recent University of California study published in Nature Communications.

The researchers examined the social, psychological and even neurological effects of sleep loss and found “a lack of sleep leads to a neural and behavioral phenotype of social withdrawal and loneliness; one that can be perceived by other members of society, and reciprocally, makes those societal members lonelier in return.”

In other words, people who are sleep-deprived tend to avoid social interaction. And that avoidance tends to push away other people, thus increasing social isolation and feelings of loneliness.loneliness

Loneliness itself is correlated with heightened risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, addiction, depression, suicide and dementia. So if there weren’t reasons enough for us to get a proper night’s sleep, now there’s loneliness to add to the list.

Sleep deprivation has reached epidemic proportions, according to the Centers for Disease Control, which reported that one third of adults in the United States don’t get the recommended 7-plus hours of sleep. If you’re one of them, the American Sleep Association provides these “sleep hygiene” tips for promoting a better night’s rest:

  • Keep to a regular sleep routine. Go to bed and wake up at the same times.
  • Avoid naps.They can disrupt sleep at night.
  • Don’t lie awake in bed more than ten minutes. Get up and sit in a chair — but no reading or Internet!
  • Don’t watch TV or read in bed. Your body connects these activities with wakefulness.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages later in the day.
  • Tobacco and alcohol use may also disturb sleep.
  • Regular exercise is suggested — but before 2 p.m.
  • Maintain a quiet, comfortable bedroom. Get a comfortable mattress and set the room temperature a little lower.
  • Hide the clock if you’re prone to watching it.

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