Need Better Sleep? Go to Church, Study Finds

Sleeping in Bed

A new study by the University of Texas at San Antonio has found that people who attend religious services and pray frequently tend to sleep better than their less religious counterparts.

Data from a large, recent nationwide survey of U.S. adults shows that religious attendance and frequency of prayer are positively associated with overall sleep quality, according to the study published in Sleep Health: Journal of the National Sleep Foundation.

The study acknowledges that religion could "decrease psychological distress, substance abuse and stress exposure, which are all associated with sleep outcomes."

"This research is relatively unchartered territory that allows us to better understand the way in which religion and spirituality affect a person's health and overall quality of life," says Christopher Ellison from the UTSA Department of Sociology, who worked with Terrence D. Hill, associate professor of sociology at the University of Arizona, and Reed T. Deangelis, a UTSA alumnus and a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for the research.

According to UTSA, "Ellison believes the data suggests a person's religious involvement benefits their mental health by reducing stress, promoting social engagement and support from fellow church members, providing psychological resources (hope, optimism, sense of meaning) and promoting healthier lifestyles (lower levels of substance abuse)."

There are many other benefits to attending church, as previous studies have shown.

For example, married couples who attend church services together are more likely to live longer, are less likely to be depressed, and less likely to get divorced, found a study, titled "Religion and Health: A Synthesis," conducted by Tyler J. VanderWeele, professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, in 2016.

Married couples who attend religious services are 30 to 50 percent less likely to get divorced than those who do not, the study asserted, adding that such couples are also nearly 30 percent less likely to be depressed and, over a 16-year follow-up period, were shown to have significantly lower risk of dying.

Another study, published in JAMA Psychiatry the same year, found that American women who attend a church service once a week or more are five times less likely to commit suicide compared with those who never go to a religious gathering.

In the conclusion, the authors wrote: "Our results do not imply that health care providers should prescribe attendance at religious services. However, for patients who are already religious, service attendance might be encouraged as a form of meaningful social participation. Religion and spirituality may be an underappreciated resource that psychiatrists and clinicians could explore with their patients, as appropriate."

Also in 2016, statistics from Britain's national happiness index suggested that Christians were among the happiest people in the nation, while those who don't identify with any particular religion generally scored the lowest life satisfaction numbers.

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