A woman sleeps peacefully. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Faith makes for a good night's sleep, study says

(RNS) — A strong faith could be the key to a good night’s sleep, according to a study released this week in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

Researchers found that those who believe in salvation and feel they have an unshakable relationship with God tend to sleep longer, fall asleep faster and feel more rested in the morning, according to Terrence D. Hill, associate professor at the University of Arizona School of Sociology.

Hill, a co-author of the study, “Sleep Quality and the Stress-Buffering Role of Religious Involvement: A Mediated Moderation Analysis,” said the findings aren’t surprising to him.

Terrence D. Hill. Photo courtesy of University of Arizona

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“If you believe a higher power is out there looking out for you, then what you’re going through now is temporary,” he said. “These worldly experiences are temporary.”

Those beliefs, he explained, help one feel less stress by giving a sense of hope and reducing sadness, and therefore sleeping better.

“It makes intuitive sense,” said co-author Reed T. Deangelis, graduate student of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “People who believe they’re secure to God and will go to heaven when they die rest assured.”

The lead author on the study is Christopher G. Ellison, professor of sociology at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Their research, Hill explained, “also shows that religion can indirectly promote sleep by protecting against other risk factors — in this case, stress.”

According to the National Sleep Foundation, people tend to be too stressed to sleep when they can’t turn off their minds, and instead replay their worries or frustration; when they experience muscle tension; and when they have an increased heart rate, which also causes physical tension.

Religion can help with these stresses by bringing people together who share common beliefs on a regular basis, which builds solidarity and a shared sense of purpose. Church members also tend to provide assistance to one another and promote positive coping practices, according to the new study.

“For all these reasons, it is plausible that regular churchgoers may experience less agitation in the wake of negative life events, and, ultimately, better quality sleep,” the report reads.

The study also found, however, that one doesn’t necessarily need a religious community to reduce stress. A nonorganizational religious practice, such as frequent reading of Scripture and prayer, can also reduce stress and facilitate sound sleep so long as the individual feels secure in the attachment to God and the person's place in the afterlife.

“Believers may be unable to comprehend why misfortune has befallen them, but they may nevertheless sleep better at night knowing that the universe is under the watchful eye of a deity who, at the end of the day, remains deeply concerned with the well-being of the world and its inhabitants,” the study concludes.

Until now, the authors of the study say, there has been very little research on the correlation between religiosity and sleep.

In a paper they published last year in the Journal of the National Sleep Foundation, they wrote that over the past three decades numerous studies have shown that religious involvement is associated with improved health, including healthy behaviors, mental health, biological functioning, physical health and lower mortality risk.

“In contrast to these bodies of work, researchers have virtually ignored possible links between religious involvement and sleep,” they wrote.

Cross-sectional data for the study came from a 2017 Baylor Religion Survey of 1,410 people who were asked about recent stressful events, sleep quality and religious involvement and religious cognitions.

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These stories are part of a series on science and religion, brought to you with support from the John Templeton Foundation. Opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation. (RNS logo, John Templeton Foundation logo}


  1. 500 mg. of magnesium and 5 mg. of melatonin an hour before bedtime makes for an even better night’s sleep.

  2. There has been years and years of evidence that religious belief supports good health and long life:

    2010: “While Catholics, Evangelical Protestants, and Black Protestants benefit from favorable attendance patterns, attendance (or lack of) at servicesexplains much of the higher mortality of those with no religious preference”


    2018: “Religious people live four years longer than atheists”


    2018: “One of the most comprehensive, published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2016, found that women who went to any kind of religious service more than once a week had a 33% lower chance than their secular peers of dying during the 16-year study-follow-up period. Another study, published last year in PLOS One, found that regular service attendance was linked to reductions in the body’s stress responses and even in mortality–so much so that worshippers were 55% less likely to die during the up to 18-year follow-up period than people who didn’t frequent the temple, church or mosque.”


    I always keep that in mind when conversing with the commenters that are atheists, agnostics, pagans, and so on.

  3. Or a brief meditation followed by a shot of Jack Daniels.

  4. I’m sure there are a number of life style habits that lead to good sleep. All are likely indicative of a life morally self-satisfactorily lived.

    Religious belief is a reason of special interest to those with a religious belief as confirmation of their religious choice — no better, no worse, than other life choices of good.

    Being religious does not assure morality. Being non-religious does not define immorality.

  5. Just avoid the 500 mg of MAGA-nesium. The list of side-effects is huuuuge.

  6. Meditation works (without the lies of religion)
    Deep breathing – joga style works (w/o the lies…)
    Cannabis works well – and w/o the lies of gods…. (and without big Pharma opioids…)

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