Most of us are cranky, short-fused and as slow as a 300 lb intoxicated tortoise when we miss our sleep. Why else do you think the world drank as much as 136.2 million bags of coffee in 2011? Unless you are a vampire or Optimus Prime, you definitely need a solid night’s sleep to function well.
You never really appreciate how important sleep is however, until you stop getting it (or stop getting the good kind). If you are in that boat, research carried out by Lianne Kurina, PhD, at the Department of Health Studies at the University of Chicago, says your troubles may be because you are feeling lonely. In fact, the lonelier you feel, the more fragmented your sleep will be.
The study is just one among a number of studies over the years that have focused on the destructive effects that loneliness has on our lives.
But I’m Not Alone, There Are People Here
Newsflash, you do not have to be alone to be lonely. It’s all about “perceived connectedness.” Kurina, “compared the degree of loneliness reported by a close-knit population of 95 adults in rural South Dakota with measurements of their sleep cycles.” Although “none of the individuals were socially isolated,” there were people who felt more or less lonely than the average.
Kurina has noted that
“…loneliness and social isolation are two distinct concepts…Loneliness reflects perceived social isolation or feelings of being an outcast, the often-painful discrepancy between a person’s desired and actual social relationships.”
Additionally, the study found that though you may sleep just as long as before you felt lonely, when you are feeling lonely the quality of sleep will be worst than when you feel secure, loved and accepted.
What to Do If You’re Feeling Lonely
It is not easy dealing with feelings of loneliness. Especially if you are already around other people, it means that you genuinely feel that no one is there for you, that no one truly understands, that no one truly appreciates you. But you need your sleep right? So what will you do?
1. Get up and Get Out
For me, I find that I feel loneliest when I have been locked up in a dim house all day, or have not been exercising and not hanging out with people whose company I actually enjoy. It may feel like a chore at first, but get up and go do something fun.
Call or visit a good friend.
Do something nice for someone else; maybe some community service?
Get some ice cream! (not too much!)
2. Recognize That You Do Not Need “Real” People All the Time to be With people
Of course you need others! But when you are feeling lonely and strapped for time, how about connecting with an inanimate character in a story (i.e. go read a book, watch your favourite movie, mediate on a Psalm). Chances are your character can relate to what you are feeling and just seeing how they manage can give you a boost. (There is also 2nd life, Facebook, etc).
3. Watch Out For & Stay Away From Lonely People
Sounds weird right, but apparently loneliness is as horribly contagious as smallpox. In fact, researchers have found that you are 50 percent more likely to feel lonely if someone directly connected to you (more like a friend than family member) is lonely.
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