Previous studies have concluded that “religion” could decrease psychological distress, substance abuse and stress exposure. According to Harold G.Koenig, MD, “An exhaustive analysis of more than 1,500 reputable medical studies indicates people who are more religious and pray more have better mental and physical health.”
New, recent studies have linked measures of religious involvement (religious attendance, prayer and secure attachment to God) with sleep outcomes (sleep quality, restless sleep, use of sleep medications). Just to be clear, when I say “religion” I am really talking about a secure, loving, personal relationship with God. I shared in more detail about that in this post earlier this year.
This is a big deal when you realize between a third and half of all Americans have insomnia and complain of poor sleep. The sleep medications often prescribed are classified as “sedative hypnotics,” a specific class of drugs used to induce and/or maintain sleep. Many of these medications like Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata and others over time can still sometimes cause physical dependence. Even more alarming are some of the other possible side effects. Besides the “usual” side effects like changes in appetite, diarrhea, constipation, dizziness, daytime drowsiness, unusual dreams, heartburn and headaches there are some that can be much more alarming.
Parasomnias are movements, behaviors and actions over which you have no control, like sleepwalking. During a parasomnia, you are asleep and unaware of what is happening. Parasomnias with sleeping pills are complex sleep behaviors and may include sleep eating, making phone calls, or having sex while in a sleep state. Sleep driving, which is driving while not fully awake, is another serious sleeping pill side effect.
Finding the most natural, healthy ways to encourage adequate, restful sleep will impact every other area of your life. So these studies on the effects of faith are very encouraging.
Sleep researcher, Christopher Ellison, who has published two books and nearly 200 peer-reviewed articles, did a follow-up project based on data from a large, recent nationwide survey of U.S. adults. With this data, he and his associates discovered that people with a greater sense of assurance of spiritual salvation tend to enjoy better sleep quality and tend to have fewer negative sleep consequences due to stressful life events and chronic conditions. Ellison said much of the benefit among the faithful is due to reducing stress, promoting social engagement and support from fellow church members, providing psychological resources (hope, optimism, sense of meaning) and promoting healthier lifestyles, such as lower levels of substance abuse.
All too often we separate spirit, soul and body as if they are not interrelated. They are not only interrelated but each one impacts the other aspects of our being.
How does your spiritual life affect your physical health and ability to sleep?
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