it seems there is a relationship between a good night’s sleep and loneliness. in a recent issue of the ‘i’ newspaper i read that researchers at the university of california, berkeley discovered that being deprived of sleep can actually make people avoid contact with others. and, to add insult, those who are sleep-deprived are less socially attractive to others. even more frightening, the research showed that “a viral contagion of social isolation” can be caused by an encounter between a well-rested person and a person lacking sleep.
on the other side of the research, we learn that just one night of good sleep makes a person feel more outgoing and confident, thereby attracting others and cutting down on the reality of isolation.
could lack of sleep be a contributing factor to the enormous social issue of isolation among elders? it seems to be common wisdom that as we grow older we need less sleep. but is it actually true? the research results are mixed. there are certainly reasons for sleep-deprivation among olders…physical ailments and pain, snoring, changes in body rhythms (circadian rhythms), and the annual changes in day/night length.
an article published by by claudia hammond on 17 may 2016 in BBC Future tells us:
After examining the findings of 320 studies an expert panel convened by the National Sleep Foundation in the US recommends seven-to-nine-hours sleep a night for adults up to the age of 64 and seven-to-eight hours for the over 65s.Yet the idea of changes in the processes underlying circadian rhythms as we age, also seems compelling. So this is one where it’s not yet possible to say whether it’s a myth that older people need less sleep. What we do know is that trying to sleep on long, lonely dark mornings, and finding yourself awake, but unrefreshed, is miserable and should be taken seriously.
it is this last sentence that interests me, particularly the last phrase…(it) “should be taken seriously”. we see here, again, the need for older peoples’ lives to be taken seriously…and, at present, they are not.
could the isolation epidemic among olders be cured by better sleep patterns? what can be done? the same article suggested that cognitive behaviour therapies would be a cost effective possibility, and certainly less addictive than sleeping pills! could bedtime mediation practices and simple, restorative yoga practices also be part of the solution to the current situation of sleep deprivation/loneliness/isolation.
let’s sleep on it and may we wake up, literally and figuratively, to a more connected world!