Does Religion Help You Sleep Better? Interview with:

Kyla Fergason Graduate Student

Kyla Fergason

Kyla Fergason
Senior Undergraduate Student
Michael K. Scullin, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator
Baylor University What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: There’s a fairly sizable literature suggesting that religious affiliation and religious engagement are associated with positive health outcomes. Therefore, we were surprised to find that agnostic/atheist individuals reported better sleep health than Christian individuals in the Baylor Religion Survey (BRS-5). 73% of agnostic/atheist individuals reported sleeping 7-9 hours/night whereas only 63% of Christian individuals met these consensus sleep guidelines. The most affected Christian denominations were Baptists (54.6%) and Catholics (62.3%). These results stood even after adjusting for age and gender. We predicted the opposite pattern.

And, it wasn’t just about longer sleep durations. Agnostic/atheist individuals even reported greater ease falling asleep compared to Christian individuals. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Sleep health is not discussed widely in religious settings, yet sleep health impacts many human abilities such as moral reasoning and expressing love and forgiveness. These are all values that religious groups promote. Increasing sleep health could benefit individuals’ abilities to follow the core tenets of their religious groups. Church leaders should emphasize and reinforce sleep health in their communities. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: The mechanism by which religion and sleep are correlated is unknown, and the body of research is small. Future studies should tease out the mechanism by which religion impacts sleep, or whether the reverse direction is at work: sleep may casually affect religious attitudes.    


Sleep 2020 Conference, “Sleep Health Across Religions: A Consideration of Bidirectional Processes


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Last Updated on September 3, 2020 by Marie Benz MD FAAD