Your Sleep Patterns May Explain Why You Believe in Ghosts, New Study Says

How you're resting can also be related to whether or not you believe in aliens.

Sometimes, it's a bump in the night that sets your mind racing. In other instances, it can be catching a glimpse of something you only manage to see out of the corner of your eye. And often, it can just be a strange feeling of unease or dread that you can't quite put your finger on. In any of these cases, someone's personal views on the paranormal can affect how they interpret the inexplicable or mysterious things that happen to them. But according to a new study, it's your sleep patterns that might also be able to explain why you believe in ghosts in the first place. Read on to see how the quality of your shuteye could be playing a role.

READ THIS NEXT: Snacking on This Helps You Lose Weight and Sleep Better, New Study Says.

A new study found that sleep quality could determine your belief in ghosts.

shadow of scary ghost woman

Even if you've had a spooky experience, new research shows that there may be another reason for your belief in spirits. A recent study from a team at the University of London published on Jan. 11 in the Journal of Sleep Research gathered 8,853 participants who were at least 18 years old and conducted a survey. Each was asked about their personal views on the paranormal and questions to help gauge their sleep quality, including things like sleep latency, sleep efficiency, sleep duration, and insomnia symptoms, The Independent reports.

Analysis of the responses found that those who took longer to fall asleep, didn't get as much sleep once they got in bed, slept shorter nights, or had more insomnia symptoms were more likely to believe in paranormal activity, even when controlling for demographic factors like age and gender. According to the team, this included "the soul living on after death, the existence of ghosts, that some people can communicate with the dead, that NDEs [near-death experiences] are evidence for life after death, that demons exist, and that aliens have visited earth."

Views on other paranormal activity could also be affected by your levels of shuteye.

UFO in night sky
Marko Aliaksandr/Shutterstock

But it wasn't just poor sleep quality that the study linked to being less skeptical about the strange and unusual. Participants who reported experiencing sleep disorder symptoms such as "exploding head syndrome" (EHS) or sleep paralysis were likelier to believe that aliens have visited Earth. They also established a connection between people who experienced sleep paralysis and believing that near-death experiences—or recounting strange out-of-body or inexplicable visions during serious trauma—could be counted as proof of life after death, The Independent reports.

According to the research team, EHS is described as a sleep disorder that causes people to hear an explosion or loud noise in their head while transitioning between being awake and falling asleep, even though the sound isn't actually audible to anyone else. Sleep paralysis is defined as "a temporary inability to move typically occurring at sleep onset or upon awakening."

RELATED: For more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Holding such beliefs could create anxiety that decreases sleep quality.

young woman restless in bed at night
iStock / dragana991

The research team explains that even though there was a linear correlation between some participants' beliefs and sleep quality, there was a "u-shaped relationship" with others—including the belief that the soul lives on after death. This means that those with very strong or very little faith in the afterlife reported fewer insomnia symptoms than those with middling views.

"Should these results be replicated, one possible explanation for these findings is that uncertainty and indecisiveness (in this case uncertain beliefs) may lead to anxiety, which in turn can interfere with sleep," the researchers wrote.

The team admitted there were limitations to the study and that more research should be carried out.

victorian christmas

Results of the study found that overall, "12.7 percent of participants believe the soul will live on after death, 8.1 percent believe in the existence of ghosts, 5.6 percent believe some people can communicate with the dead, 3.4 percent believe near-death experiences are evidence for life after death, 4.7 percent believe in the existence of demons, and 3.4 percent believe aliens have visited earth/interacted with humans." But the researchers cautioned that the experiment was limited because participants were self-selected and "unlikely to be representative of the general population," adding that "other phenomena that may contribute to these beliefs were not assessed."

However, the team also said their results could still help the medical field to better assess some patients. "Findings obtained here indicate that there are associations between beliefs in the paranormal and various sleep variables," the team ultimately concluded. "The study findings can help support patients' experiences by increasing healthcare practitioners' understanding with regards to people reporting such events," adding that it could also help healthcare providers avoid misdiagnoses of psychiatric disorders that have similar symptoms to some sleep experiences.

"Mechanisms underlying these associations are likely complex, and need to be further explored to fully understand why people sometimes report 'things that go bump in the night,'" they wrote.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
Filed Under