Recently, a new study, whose findings appear in the journal Sleep, shows that religious people are more likely to have disturbed sleep cycles and not get the recommended amount of sleep on a daily basis in comparison with non-believers and people who do not usually associate with any religious beliefs.
These results are in direct contradiction with the previously established relationship between religious beliefs and better mental well-being and open room for further research on the matter in the future.
Currently, mental health illnesses are more common and prevalent among all age groups in comparison with a decade ago. More and more people are developing mental health disorders, with depression and anxiety being the most commonly diagnosed problems, specifically in young adults.
In addition, the number of cases is also expected to rise in the near future due to the ongoing coronavirus health crisis around the world.
The multiple effects of the pandemic have affected populations in nearly all countries affected and has led to a range of problems including emotional distress, burnout, lack of social interaction, economic uncertainty, social isolation, fear of contracting the coronavirus, and many others.
As a result, many people, specifically those from lower socio-economic classes and minority groups are suffering and at a far higher risk of developing mental health disorders.
Health experts have also warned of an incoming mental health epidemic, which may start side by side with the coronavirus pandemic or after it as there is increasing evidence to show the effects of the crisis are taking a toll on the mental health of the majority.
During this time, many people have also protested against restrictions on religious places including churches as it is argued that religious practices are often a way to deal with stress, which is needed especially at the moment.
However, the new research conducted by a team from Baylor University which was led by Kyla Fergason challenges previous claims on the positive impact of religious beliefs on mental health.
To reach this conclusion, a survey comprising over one thousand and five hundred participants, also called the Baylor Religion Survey was conducted.
It was then found that around seventy-three percent of the group of ‘non-believers’ or agnostics and atheists had healthy sleep cycles. Most of them also slept for seven to eight hours each night, which is the recommended amount of sleeping hours by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).
On the other hand, around sixty-five percent of the ‘believers’ group managed to get at least seven hours of sleep a day. The most shocking discovery was that Baptists were the most likely to have disturbed sleep patterns.
However, Fergason believes that further investigation is needed in the matter. Although the results are very interesting, it has only found a correlation, which does not only mean causation.
The findings of the study do not suggest that religious belief or lack of beliefs can help with better mental health and disturbed sleep cycles.
Instead, it suggests that mental health may be affected by various factors and issues in life, which many people may not be able to manage without help.