Religious Doubts and Sleep Quality: Findings from a Nationwide Study of Presbyterians #090709revised

Abstract

A growing literature examines the correlates and sequelae of spiritual struggles, such as religious doubts. To date, however, this literature has focused primarily on a handful of mental health outcomes (e.g., symptoms of depression, anxiety, negative affect), while the possible links with other aspects of health and well-being, such as poor or disrupted sleep, have received much less attention. After reviewing relevant theory and previous studies, we analyze data from a nationwide sample of Presbyterian Church (USA) members to test the hypothesis that religious doubts will be inversely associated with overall self-rated sleep quality, and positively associated with the frequency of sleep problems and the use of sleep medications. We also hypothesize that part of this association will be explained by the link between religious doubts and psychological distress. Results offer moderate but consistent support for these predictions. We end with a discussion of the implications of these findings, a brief mention of study limitations, and some suggestions for future research.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The panel includes a representative sample of another population, active ministers, but it is not included in the current analysis.

  2. 2.

    We recognize the possibility that the relationship between self-rated physical health and sleep quality may be bidirectional, i.e., that sleep quality may erode health just as poor health can undermine sleep quality. It is also conceivable that self-reported, subjective assessments of both sleep quality and overall health may be correlated due to common, unmeasured influences, including possible response biases. Nevertheless, we follow the lead of previous researchers (e.g., Moore et al. 2002) who incorporate adjustments for the potentially confounding effects of health status on indicators of sleep quality.

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Correspondence to Matt Bradshaw.

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Ellison, C.G., Bradshaw, M., Storch, J. et al. Religious Doubts and Sleep Quality: Findings from a Nationwide Study of Presbyterians #090709revised. Rev Relig Res 53, 119–136 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13644-011-0019-0

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Keywords

  • Religion
  • Spiritual struggle
  • Doubt
  • Health
  • Sleep