Friends are great. They can help you get by. They can help you get high. And now, according to a new research from psychologists at the University of Utah, they may help you get better shut-eye.
The study, published online on May 15 in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, found a link between the strength of social ties and quality of slumber. Participants assessed their sleeping habits — how well, how long, how consistently, efficiently and soundly they slept — and also recorded their medication regimens and daytime wakefulness. Finally, they rated their relationships with friends, family members, significant others, co-workers and social acquaintances.
Would those with tight cliques sleep better? As it turns out, yes.
Certain social dynamics appear more crucial to good rest, particularly relationships with friends, family members and significant others. In terms of predicting sleeping habits, the study suggests it doesn’t matter whether or not people feel supported by their co-workers or social acquaintances. And while the presence of positive and negative relationships reliably predicted quality of sleep, ambivalent relationships, characterized by high levels of both negativity and positivity, (aka frenemies) didn’t register any significant effect.
"Ambivalent ties have been linked to negative health outcomes in other work, so it was reasonable to predict they might impair sleep quality," " said study author Rob Kent. "On the other hand, ambivalent relationships have not been linked to health behaviors thought to increase risk for disease, so it may simply be that sleep is not one of the pathways linking ambivalence to health."
Why would people with richer social lives sleep better? One theory points to evolution: Strong relationships make people feel safe from predators, putting them at enough ease to catch top-shelf zzzzz’s.
Additionally, the study found, people suffering through toxic relationships have something else in common: a tendency toward depression, which in turn predicted poor sleep. The causal relationship between the three qualities isn’t clear, and some research actually challenges the traditional belief that poor sleeping habits are symptomatic of depression. (It may be the other way around, in fact: Chronic sleep deprivation may cause mood disorders by altering connectivity within and between brain regions critical to regulating emotion.) Still, establishing the three-way connection could help assuage sleeping issues.
"In the case of relationships and sleep quality," said Kent, "dealing with symptoms of depression may help, even in cases where a negative relationship can’t be ended for some reason."
We do seem to know one thing: Blowing off your cubicle mates and making more real friends means you'll sleep more soundly.