ADVERTISEMENT

The Price Of Loneliness Is Sleep, Not Only In Twins

Scientists have found a connection between loneliness and sleep disorders in adolescents. One group, in particular, was at risk. 

Humans are social beings. If they are lonely, it not only feels bad, but their health also suffers. Loneliness, as various studies have shown, can be associated with high blood pressure, depression, or weight problems, for example.  However, researchers have observed most of these phenomena in older people in particular. The extent of the correlation in young people is less well understood.

ADVERTISEMENT

It is known that the feeling of loneliness is not uncommon, especially among young people. According to a report by the Mental Health Foundation (1), loneliness is most common among people between the ages of 18 and 34. London scientists have now uncovered a connection among young people: according to the study published in the journal Psychological Medicine (2), lonely young people suffer somewhat more from sleep problems than their peers who do not think they are lonely.

By loneliness, scientists do not mean being alone. Because also humans, who have only comparatively little contact to others, can be lucky and content. Conversely, some people feel lonely although they are actually surrounded by many people. By loneliness, researchers mean a stressful feeling of being abandoned and unloved by the world. And even when you have something like a social life, it feels inadequate and unfulfilling.

To find out what influence this feeling has on young people’s sleep at night, the scientists at the London King’s Collage investigated 2232 twins between the ages of 18 and 19 through interviews and questionnaires: How often do you lack company with others? How often do you feel excluded or left alone? How often do you feel isolated from others? Finally, how often do you feel alone? In addition, the scientists monitored the sleep quality of their volunteers over a period of one month. For example, they were interested in how long it takes for the test persons to fall asleep, how long they sleep, how often they wake up, and how well they feel the next day.

Slightly more than a quarter of the test persons stated that they sometimes felt lonely. Another five percent regularly felt quite alone. The lonely teenagers had a 24 percent higher risk of fatigue and concentration difficulties during the day than the twins, who did not feel lonely. The connection persisted even when scientists excluded mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety because these conditions are often associated with sleep disorders. Professor Louise Arseneault of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London stated that reduced sleep quality is one of many ways for loneliness to get under the skin. Since several identical twins participated in the study, whose genetic make-up is almost identical by nature, the scientists were also able to examine the role played by the genes. However, the genetic material, as the study shows, probably does not seem to be the culprit.

ADVERTISEMENT

One possible explanation for the connection between loneliness and poor sleep quality for the scientists is rather that lonely people feel less secure. Those who are separated from their social group are, after all, an easier prey in purely evolutionary terms. This perceived discomfort may lead to a stress reaction that disturbs sleep. From earlier studies (3), for example, there are indications that loneliness is associated with a changed amount of circulating cortisol, an important player in the body’s stress system. Violence that has already been experienced could reinforce this connection.

The scientists, therefore, examined which of the test persons had already experienced violence or abuse by family members or peers. In fact, it was found that the connection between sleep disorders and loneliness was much stronger in subjects who experienced particularly severe forms of violence and abuse.

“It is important to realize that loneliness in some people interacts with existing vulnerabilities,” says Timothy Matthews of IoPPN at King’s College London. “These people should receive support tailored to their needs,”—  at least if other studies can confirm these initial indications from the scientists.

This is part 27 of a series covering twin health provided by Paul Enck from the Tübingen University Hospital and science writer Nicole Simon. Further studies in twin research can be found at TwinHealth website. Translation was done with the assistance of DeepL translator.

References:

ADVERTISEMENT
  1. Griffin J. The Lonely Society? Mental Health Foundation, London, U.K. last accessed Sept 22, 2018, https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/the-lonely-society
  2. Matthews T, Danese A, Gregory AM, Caspi A, Moffitt TE, Arseneault L. Sleeping with one eye open: loneliness and sleep quality in young adults. Psychol Med. 2017 Sep;47:2177-86.
  3. Doane LD, Adam EK. Loneliness and cortisol: momentary, day-to-day, and trait associations. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2010 Apr;35:430-41.

Comments

READ THIS NEXT

Perseid Meteor Shower To Reach Peak August 12-13: Here’s How To See It

This upcoming Sunday and Monday the annual Perseids meteor shower event will reach its luminous peak. Stargazers are predicted to […]

Market-Level Effects Of Firm-Level Adaptation And Intermediation In Networked Markets Of Fresh Foods

The increasing trend in urban population has placed food security as a major concern for creating sustainable cities. Developing countries […]

Minimizing Hand Foot And Mouth Disease Effects With Flavonoid Compounds

Hand Foot And Mouth Disease (HFMD) typically affects children and is caused by human enteroviruses. Common symptoms of HFMD include […]

Germany Experiments With Free Public Transportation In Attempt To Cut Air Pollution

Though Germany may have gained fame as a producer of cars, with the major automaker Volkswagen stationed there, the country […]

Combustion Reaction: Examples And Definition

Combustion refers to a high-energy chemical reaction in which fuel is oxidized and converted into a mixture of often gaseous […]

Benadryl For Dogs: Dosage And Safety Information

Benadryl can be used for dogs, and the recommended dosage is typically about 1 milligrams per pound of body weight […]

The Parts Of A Flower With Diagrams

The parts of a flower can be broken up into the pistil (stigma, style, and ovary) and stamen (anther and […]

Science Trends is a popular source of science news and education around the world. We cover everything from solar power cell technology to climate change to cancer research. We help hundreds of thousands of people every month learn about the world we live in and the latest scientific breakthroughs. Want to know more?