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Loneliness Is Associated with Sleep Fragmentation in a Communal Society

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Loneliness has been shown to predict poor health. One hypothesized mechanism is that lonely individuals do not sleep as well as individuals who feel more connected to others. Our goal was to test whether loneliness is associated with sleep fragmentation or sleep duration. Cross-sectional study. Members of a traditional, communal, agrarian society living in South Dakota. Ninety-five participants (mean age 39.8 years, 55% female) who were ≥ 19 years of age at the study's inception. Not applicable. We conducted interviews querying loneliness, depression, anxiety, and stress, as well as subjective sleep quality and daytime sleepiness. Study participants wore a wrist actigraph for one week to measure objective sleep properties; the two studied here were sleep fragmentation and sleep duration. Higher loneliness scores were associated with significantly higher levels of sleep fragmentation (β = 0.073, t = 2.55, P = 0.01), controlling for age, sex, body mass index, risk of sleep apnea, and negative affect (a factor comprising symptoms of depression and anxiety, and perceived stress). Loneliness was not associated with sleep duration or with either subjective sleep measure. Loneliness was a significant predictor of sleep fragmentation. Humans' social nature may partly be manifest through our dependence on feeling secure in our social environment to sleep well.
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... For brevity, in this paper we will be focusing on only three different aspects of health-related outcomes or health-related factors, including (1) physical health, (2) social health (defined as an individual's ability to interact, develop meaningful relationships, and act as a functioning member of their community; Renne, 1974) and mental health, and (3) health literacy. Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers found a consistent relationship between higher loneliness and poor physical health indicators (e.g., increased cardiovascular issues, reduced physical activity, sleeping difficulties; Cacioppo, Hawkley, Crawford, et al., 2002;Hawkley et al., 2006;Hawkley et al., 2009;Hawkley et al., 2010;Kurina et al., 2011). A number of these physical health indicators are associated with cardiovascular and metabolic disease development (Mozaffarian et al., 2008). ...
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... A systematic review showed that loneliness was significantly associated with heart disease, hypertension, stroke, and lung disease [12]. In addition to disease, loneliness affects other health outcomes, such as declining physical function [4], sleep fragmentation [13], and poor sleep quality [14]. Loneliness is also related to negative mental health, such as psychological distress [15], anxiety, depression [16,17], and impaired cognitive functioning and dementia [18]. ...
... A systematic review showed that loneliness was significantly associated with heart disease, hypertension, stroke, and lung disease [12]. In addition to disease, loneliness affects other health outcomes, such as declining physical function [4], sleep fragmentation [13], and poor sleep quality [14]. Loneliness is also related to negative mental health, such as psychological distress [15], anxiety, depression [16,17], and impaired cognitive functioning and dementia [18]. ...
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Loneliness has become one of the most common psychological problems experienced by older adults. Previous studies have indicated that loneliness is correlated with poor physical and psychological health outcomes; therefore, it is important to pay attention to people experiencing loneliness. However, there is a lack of information regarding the prevalence of loneliness, and its associated factors, among community-dwelling older adults in Indonesia, which this study aimed to understand. This study used a cross-sectional, descriptive, and correlational research design. Stratified random sampling was applied to 1360 participants, aged ≥ 60 years, in 15 community health centers in Kendari City, Indonesia. The following questionnaires were used to collect data, including demographic and characteristic information, Short Portable Mental Status Questionnaire, Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support, Geriatric Depression Scale Short Form, and a single-item loneliness question. The prevalence of loneliness among older adults was 64.0%. The multivariate logistic regression showed that older adults who were female, lived with family, had fewer children, had a poor health status, had a poor oral status, had more chronic diseases, had no hearing problems, had poor cognitive function, and had depression had a higher chance of feeling lonely. Loneliness is a serious health issue among the older population in Indonesia. The government, social workers, and healthcare professionals should pay immediate attention to this psychological problem. The study also suggests that appropriate strategies for the prevention of loneliness should be developed in the near future.
... According to the stress-buffering model (68), in times of significant stress, social connections mitigate the negative effects of stress on well-being. Loneliness and social isolation, on the other hand, are associated with anxiety, depression (69), poorer sleep quality (70,71) and sleep fragmentation (72), and overall mortality risk (73). For the 30 million college students in China who were quarantined at home, the pandemic created a particularly challenging social context for students' physical and mental health. ...
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The longitudinal relationship between students’ pre-existing adaptability and subsequent sleep and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic has not been studied. The present study examines the relationship between adaptability and students’ anxiety, depression, and insomnia during and after the lockdown related to COVID-19. 5,235 university students participated in a longitudinal study with three time points. Students completed the Adaptability Scale before the outbreak (October 2019; Time 1), the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI) both during (April 2020; Time 2) and after lockdown (March 2021; Time 3), the Anxiety and Depression subscales of the SCL-90 (at Time 1 and 3), and the SAS/SDS (at Time 2). The results showed that self-reported adaptability is significantly negatively correlated with anxiety and depression, and that anxiety and depression are positively correlated with insomnia. Furthermore, adaptability protects from insomnia both directly and through its negative relationship with anxiety and depression. This study sheds light on the internal mechanisms mediating the relationship between students’ adaptability and experience of insomnia in challenging circumstances. Implications for curtailing the negative effects of stressful events on students’ sleep health by improving their adaptability and reducing their anxiety and depression are discussed.
... It differs from isolation, in which the absence of others is not associated with a sense of deprivation [3]. Loneliness is linked to higher cortisol levels [4,5] and fragmented sleep; [6] it is associated with an increased risk of depression [7] and death [8][9][10]. ...
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What if being lonely were a bigger problem than we ever suspected? Based on John T. Cacioppo's pioneering research, Loneliness explores the effects of this all-too-human experience, providing a fundamentally new view of the importance of social connection and how it can rescue us from painful isolation. His sophisticated studies relying on brain imaging, analysis of blood pressure, immune response, stress hormones, behavior, and even gene expression show that human beings are simply far more intertwined and interdependent—physiologically as well as psychologically—than our cultural assumptions have ever allowed us to acknowledge. Bringing urgency to the message, Cacioppo's findings also show that prolonged loneliness can be as harmful to your health as smoking or obesity. On the flip side, they demonstrate the therapeutic power of social connection and point the way toward making that healing balm available to everyone. Cacioppo has worked with science writer William Patrick to trace the evolution of these tandem forces, showing how, for our primitive ancestors, survival depended not on greater brawn but on greater commitments to and from one another. Serving as a prompt to repair frayed social bonds, the pain of loneliness engendered a fear response so powerfully disruptive that even now, millions of years later, a persistent sense of rejection or isolation can impair DNA transcription in our immune cells. This disruption also impairs thinking, will power, and perseverance, as well as our ability to read social signals and exercise social skills. It also limits our ability to internally regulate our emotions—all of which can combine to trap us in self-defeating behaviors that reinforce the very isolation and rejection that we dread. Loneliness shows each of us how to overcome this feedback loop of defensive behaviors to achieve better health and greater happiness. For society, the potential payoff is the greater prosperity and social cohesion that follows from increased social trust. Ultimately, Loneliness demonstrates the irrationality of our culture's intense focus on competition and individualism at the expense of family and community. It makes the case that the unit of one is actually an inadequate measure, even when it comes to the health and well-being of the individual. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Several international studies have substantiated the role of loneliness as a risk factor for mortality. Although both theoretical and empirical research has supported the classification of loneliness as either situational or chronic, research to date has not evaluated whether this classification has a differential impact upon mortality. To establish the definition of situational vs. chronic loneliness, we used three waves of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a nationally representative sample of Americans over the age of 50 years. Baseline data for the present study were collected in the years 1996, 1998, and 2000. The present study concerns the 7,638 individuals who completed all three waves; their loneliness was classified as either not lonely, situational loneliness or chronic loneliness. Mortality data were available through to the year 2004. Those identified as "situationally lonely" (HR = 1.56; 95% CI: 1.52-1.62) as well as those identified as "chronically lonely" (HR = 1.83; 95% CI: 1.71-1.87) had a greater risk for all cause mortality net of the effect of possible demographic and health confounders. Nonetheless, relative to those classified as "situationally lonely," individuals classified as "chronically lonely" had a slightly greater mortality risk. The current study emphasizes the important role loneliness plays in older adults' health. The study further supports current division into situational vs. chronic loneliness, yet suggests that both types serve as substantial mortality risks.