Gun ownership does not improve sleep, says study

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    ST. LOUIS — A new study published in the Preventive Medicine journal concluded that owning a gun does not impact a person’s sleep disturbance.

    Terrence Hill, associate professor at the University of Arizona’s School of Sociology, helped conduct the research. In 2019, Hill researched the relationship between fear and gun ownership, which ultimately led to this study.

    Hill said the goal of this study, which was based on nationally representative data from the 2010 to 2018 General Social Survey, was to understand the relationship between gun ownership and personal well-being. The National Opinion Research Center, an independent survey research organization, conducted a randomly sampled U.S. population survey for the study.

    “We find that gun owners and non-gun owners tend to exhibit similar sleep outcomes,” Hill said. “We also find that owning a gun is no consolation for the sleep disturbance associated with living in a dangerous neighborhood.”

    Hill said even among various subgroups, including age, gender, race, ethnicity, education, employment, income, marital status, religion, political orientation, survey year or urbanicity, the findings did not differ.

    Similar sleep habits among gun owners and non-gun owners

    Hill does not deny some people claim to sleep better because of owning a gun but states this experience is not common enough to see at a population level.

    “We are not criticizing guns or gun owners,” Hill said. “Our results show that gun owners and non-gun owners have similar sleep habits.”

    Steven King, owner of Metro Shooting Supplies in Bridgeton, carries a gun 15 hours a day. “It [owning a gun] does make me feel more safe,” King said.

    King agrees with Hill’s findings but also believes some people may feel more comfortable sleeping at night if they own a gun. 

    King said the majority of gun owners do not think about the fact, but rather, as a part of their life. “However, the people who do not interact with firearms on a daily basis tend to think more about firearms doing harm and it could raise the level of stress, thus potentially effecting [sic] the quality of sleep,” King said in an email on February 10.

    King said St. Louis is no exception to Hill’s findings. “Everybody wants to make St. Louis out as a gun-riddled, bullet-riddled community because of our homicide rate,” he said. “For most people who own a gun, it’s just part of their everyday life.”

    King said if a gun is used for home protection, it should be loaded but “inaccessible to unauthorized users.”

    When asked about the relationship between gun ownership and sleep, the St. Louis Area Violence Prevention Commission declined to comment.

    What’s in store for the future?

    When it comes to research about what affects a person’s sleep quality, Hill said his team’s research is “just the beginning” and that people should be critical about anything that claims to improve sleep.

    Hill’s research team has now published three separate studies on gun ownership and personal well-being. “Our first study showed that gun owners tend to experience less fear in their lives,” Hill said. “Our second and third studies showed that gun owners and non-gun owners tend to exhibit similar levels of happiness and sleep disturbance.”

    “We want to separate popular beliefs about guns and sleep from the science of the empirical world,” Hill said. “What would people be saying if we found that gun owners sleep better at night?”

    One question the research leads to, Hill said, is, “Do gun owners really have less fear in their lives?”

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