According to research from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, loneliness can wreck your chances of getting a restful night’s sleep. Researchers measured the sleep cycles of 95 people in South Dakota, comparing them to the participant’s self-reported loneliness scores (none of them lived isolated lives, but some reported feeling lonelier than others).
The results? The lonelier the participant, the higher the 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,” lead author Lianne Kurina, PhD, said in a press release.
“When you feel lonely, you show more micro-awakenings,” noted Cacioppo, a co-author of the study. This means you wake up a little bit at night even though you aren’t aware of it.
How does a steamy bath or piping-hot cup of coffee sound to you? If it sounds downright comforting, you may want to read this:
“The lonelier a person is, the more showers and baths they take, the hotter the water, and the longer they stay under the water,” said psychologist John Bargh, PhD, a researcher at Yale University who studied physical warmth and social connection. For his research, Bargh surveyed 51 college students about their levels of loneliness and everyday habits, concluding that some people use physical warmth as a substitute for social warmth (the students who reported feeling lonelier also tended to linger in the shower longer).
There’s nothing wrong with this, Bargh contends — people are not always in control of the reasons they feel alone (it could be due to a breakup or a recent move). However, you can use this finding to your advantage: Next time you’re feeling lonesome, whip up a cup of hot cocoa.