An Experimental Investigation of Sleep Restriction on Religiosity and Forgiveness

Fergason, Kyla
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Religious institutions advocate for love, compassion, and empathy within their congregations. They also often push for time privately in prayer and reading religious texts. Sleep, with its effects on cognition, forgiveness, and mood, could affect religious individual’s behaviors and treatment towards others. We investigated whether experimental sleep restriction can alter mood, performance, religious cognitions, and attitudes towards religious leaders who made mistakes. Healthy young adults (N=49) participated in a two-session study that included mood questionnaires, cognitive tests, and measures of religiosity. All participants were given wake times of 7:30am and randomly assigned to bedtimes of either 10:30pm or 1:30am from Monday through Thursday night. Sleep restriction resulted in greater mood disturbance and worsened subjective sleepiness. Sleep restriction also resulted in rating God as less responsive, decreasing time in prayer throughout the week, and less forgiveness of religious leaders who made mistakes. Religious institutions should advocate for improved sleep health in their congregations to encourage empathy for others and positive feelings towards God.