Religious involvement as a social determinant of sleep: an initial review and conceptual model

Terrence D. Hill, Reed Deangelis, Christopher G. Ellison

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Although numerous empirical studies show that religious involvement is associated with better health and longer life expectancies, researchers have virtually ignored possible links between religious involvement and sleep. To spark greater attention to this important and understudied area of sleep research, we review previous population-based studies, propose an initial conceptual model of the likely pathways for these associations, and offer several avenues for future research. Our review and critical examination suggest that religious involvement is indeed a social determinant of sleep in the United States. More religious adults in particular tend to exhibit healthier sleep outcomes than their less religious counterparts. This general pattern can be seen across large population-based studies using a narrow range of religion measurements and sleep outcomes. Our conceptual model, grounded in the broader religion and health literature, suggests that religious involvement may be associated with healthier sleep outcomes by limiting mental, chemical, and physiological arousal associated with psychological distress, substance use, stress exposure, and allostatic load. As we move forward, researchers should incorporate (1) more rigorous longitudinal research designs, (2) more sophisticated sleep measurements, (3) more complex conceptual models, (4) more comprehensive measurements of religion and related concepts, and (5) more measures of religious struggles to better assess the “dark side” of religion. Research along these lines would provide a more thorough understanding of the intersection of religious involvement and population sleep.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-330
Number of pages6
JournalSleep Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2018


  • Allostatic load
  • Mental health
  • Religion
  • Sleep
  • Stress
  • Substance use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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