Contact: Alyssa Cheadle, PhD
For Release: March 9, 2019
If you readily forgive people who hurt you—and forgive yourself as well—you may reap the reward of more restful sleep, along with the better health enjoyed by those who sleep well.
That’s the eye-opening conclusion of the first study ever to look at how forgiveness may be related to sleep and health. It will be released today at the American Psychosomatic Society meeting in Vancouver.
There’s evidence that people strongly inclined to forgive have better health, says Alyssa Cheadle, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Hope College. Her research on 1,423 U.S. adults, a nationally representative sample, considered the role that sleep may play in explaining the link between forgiveness and health. She worked with coauthors Loren Toussaint, PhD, and Andrew Gall, PhD.
In a telephone survey, participants answered a series of questions about their willingness to forgive others and themselves; sleep quality and quantity; life satisfaction and emotional distress; and their physical health. The more willing people were to forgive others and themselves, the better their quality of sleep and the more adequate the quantity, says Cheadle. Better sleep in turn predicted better health.
Lack of forgiveness certainly can wreak havoc overnight, she suggests. “If you’re angry with yourself or holding a grudge, it can keep you awake ruminating or feeling guilty. These are stressful emotions, and the stress generated by not forgiving could interrupt sleep.”
Although her study didn’t ask about rumination, it’s been shown that more forgiving people spend less time doing it. And the unforgiving could be kept awake overnight if they mentally retrace, over and over, infuriating offenses or their own remorse. But our bodies recover and heal overnight with good sleep, while poor sleep worsens health and shortens life.
So, in essence, the study suggests that forgiveness of ourselves and others is a survival tool.
The American Psychosomatic Society (APS) (www.psychosomatic.org), founded in 1943, is an international multidisciplinary academic society that organizes an annual scientific meeting and educational programs. Psychosomatic Medicine is its scientific journal. The membership of over 700 is composed of academic scientists and clinicians in medicine, psychiatry, epidemiology, health psychology and allied health services. The mission of the APS is “to advance and integrate the scientific study of biological, psychological, behavioral and social factors in health and disease.”