Could feelings of loneliness be indirectly messing with your sleeping patterns? According to an intriguing new study from the University of Chicago, people who feel lonelier are more likely to have restless sleep.

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Researchers looked at 95 case studies of adults drawn from a close-knit, farming community in South Dakota. Participants, with an average age of just under 40, were asked whether they felt lonely, depressed, anxious or stressed. They were also asked to evaluate how well they thought they slept at night and how sleepy they felt during the day.

Those taking part also wore a wrist actigraph for a week to accurately record how much they tossed and turned in their sleep. The results were adjusted to take into account factors such as age, sex, body mass index and risk of sleep apnoea, as well as whether a participant felt depressed, stressed or anxious for reasons other than sleep loss.

These findings could help explain why lonely people tend to have more health problems on the whole, including depression, high blood pressure and higher risk of heart disease in women. Previous research suggests that sleep disruptions may lead to biological changes that could worsen health.