Could Sleep be the Secret to a Happier Relationship?

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A good night’s sleep could have a significant impact on the quality of your relationship, according to recent research.

“Not being well rested makes us more likely to be irritable or have a short fuse or feel cranky,” says licensed clinical psychologist Donna Marino, PsyD. “If you aren’t sleeping well, all your partner’s little annoying habits will be magnified. You’ll be less likely to let stuff roll off your back and might even (unknowingly) be looking for things to pick on in order to release your irritability.”

If both partners are sleep deprived, it can double the odds of relationship conflict.

SLEEP DEPRIVATION AND RELATIONSHIPS

In a study titled, “Do Sleepless Nights Mean Worse Fights?,” researchers found when one partner didn’t sleep well, conflict increased and empathy decreased; conflict resolution was most effective when both partners were well rested. Poor sleep, the researchers concluded, could put relationships at risk.

Sleep disorders specialist Michael J. Breusm, PhD, author of “The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan,” notes relationships are difficult enough without adding the effects of sleep deprivation, which can range from irritability and anxiety to depression, high blood pressure and increased risk of catching a cold.

“Sleep deprivation changes your perspective,” he says. “You’re more likely to perceive experiences — even positive or neutral experiences — as negative and that can lead to more conflict with your partner.”

Crawling into bed with a grumpy, sleep-deprived partner could also interfere with romance. Poor sleep quality has been associated with low sexual satisfaction and shorter sleep duration has been linked to decreased sexual function.

“It’s no longer, ‘Not tonight, honey, I have a headache,’” Breus says. “It’s, ‘Not tonight, honey, I’m freaking exhausted.’”

HOW TO REIGNITE THE SPARK

Prioritizing sleep can help reignite the spark. Research published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found a one-hour increase in sleep duration was associated with a 14% increase in the likelihood of engaging in sexual activity.

“When you’re well-rested, you have more energy and vitality and are more likely to feel good and to want to do other things that make you feel good,” Marino says.

Just as sleep quality impacts relationship satisfaction, the quality of your relationship affects how well you sleep. Couples who reported high levels of marital satisfaction also slept better, taking less time to fall asleep and had fewer sleep disturbances than couples who were less satisfied with their relationships, according to 2018 research. During a six-month follow-up, couples who reported difficulties in their marriages also reported more frequent sleep disturbances.

For the 1 in 3 adults who aren’t getting enough sleep, Breus suggests getting regular exercise, steering clear of caffeine after 2 p.m., banishing screens from the bedroom and establishing regular sleep/wake times. Your sleep quality will improve and your relationship will, too.

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