How Sleep Problems Are Hurting Your Relationship + What to Do About It
They say you should never go to bed when you’re super mad at your S.O. But what about when you work it out and still can’t get to sleep? You might be able to hack a well-rested look, but being sleep deprived can take a toll on your relationship in the long run — and science now proves it. A new study in the Journal of Family Psychology found that when a person gets greater-than-average sleep, they feel more satisfied with their relationship the next day. And when people don’t get enough sleep? Their outlook isn’t nearly so rosy.
There’s some clear logic behind the researchers’ findings. When you’re in a relationship, there are ups and downs. Staying happy takes some work that psychologists refer to as “self-regulatory resources,” which is the energy to discount negative experiences to evaluate the total positive sum of the relationship as a whole. And sleep plays a very key role in replenishing those resources, according to this study. So, it makes total sense that people who got more sleep were more satisfied overall with their relationships.
But getting a good night’s sleep isn’t always easy, especially when you add in the stress of now knowing that the health of your relationship kind of depends on it. In fact, sleep problems are super common (bad news for you and relationships everywhere). The National Sleep Foundation says 40 million Americans experience insomnia annually, especially women and older adults.
We talked to Christopher Lindholst, the CEO of MetroNaps (the company that supplies places like Google with those high-tech sleep pods for employees to catch some ZZZs and recharge at work), to get some info on how sleep affects your health and relationships, and what you can do about it.
Clearly, you should be getting more sleep for you. But where do the effects on your S.O. come in? Obviously, you’re more likely to be grumpy when you’re tired, but it’s more than just that. “The research shows that a lack of sleep reduces our ability to regulate negative moods and hostility, which can make it more difficult to communicate with our friends, family and even strangers,” says Christopher. “We’re more likely to have a short temper, and studies have also shown we’re more likely to make bad decisions when we are tired, which might mean more likely to cheat and be more aggressive.” And bad news for your sex life: Fatigue also reduces both sex drive and performance. Yikes.
So what do you do about it? First, look at why you’re having trouble sleeping in the first place. “Stress is one of the most common causes of sleep deprivation,” says Christopher. “Close behind are environmental or family factors like children, pets or even your spouse watching too much Netflix in bed.” (Although, if you’re into watching the same shows, it could actually be a plus for your relationship.) See if you can reduce the stress triggers messing with your snooze time and develop a relaxing ritual before bed (that doesn’t involve screens).
If you’re still having trouble sleeping, Christopher suggests seeing if napping can help you. “Naps don’t replace nighttime sleep, but they can be very helpful in coping with fatigue if, for whatever reason, you didn’t get a good night of sleep the previous night or the last many nights,” he explains. “Research shows a short 15-20-minute nap improves health, mood and creativity, and boosts alertness and productivity.” It’s actually even more effective than caffeine (which he says you should avoid after 2pm, anyway).
Other things to give up before bedtime: Don’t have more than a glass or two of an alcoholic beverage in the evening or stay up late looking at screens (even if it’s for work — that deadline can wait). “It’s fairly amazing what better sleep you get if you just discipline yourself to get to bed and turn off the light by a reasonable hour,” says Christopher.
How do you prioritize a good night’s sleep? Tweet us your tips @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)