The Risk of Going to Bed Before Resolving Your Argument

The old adage, “never go to bed angry,” may have more meaning than originally thought.  Recent research from Ohio University examined couples mood, sleep, and overall health.  

They discovered that those who went to bed angry had a higher chance of developing problems such as heart disease and even Alzheimer’s.

How Does This Happen?

Going to bed angry definitely has negative effects on your health. Poor sleep causes inflammation, which is tied to many serious diseases. Couples who have an unresolved heated argument before bed has a 10% increased risk of developing inflammation.

The Research Into Arguing, Sleep, and Health

In this study, couples were told to intentionally discuss a difficult topic associated with their relationship. Their blood was measured before and after the argument. What they found was that those couples who had an argument experienced elevated indicators for inflammation in their blood. Couples who made up or resolved the argument before bed did not have any increase of inflammation in their blood levels.  

Dr. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser of Ohio University said that:

“What we worry about in a study like this is having even a relatively modest change in inflammation, but persistent over time. So, going to bed after one argument may not lead to any significant health issues. However, experiencing unresolved conflict over time can lead to elevated inflammation and susceptibility to health problems.”

The Impact on Your Health

If you experience inflammation for a long period of time you could be putting yourself at risk for:

  • Heart disease.
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Type 2 Diabetes.
  • Osteoporosis
  • Arthritis

Other research shows that inflammation negatively impacts our blood vessels, which increases our heart attack risk. This inflammation unfortunately also affects our brain. In fact, studies on mice have shown that by lowering the rate of inflammation in the brain we can actually stop the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Questions that Arise for Couples

Some questions from this research that couples should consider include:

  • Can the argument wait until the next day rather than having it right before bedtime?

 

  • Are you already worked up about the issue? Conversely, do you want to get your partner worked up about the issue as well?

 

  • Do you and your partner have the skill set to resolve the issue now?

If you and your partner feel that you are about to get into an argument it is important to be mindful of these issues to hopefully avoid the increased inflammation.

Tips for Couples Who are Still Arguing

If you and your partner continue to find yourselves arguing at night consider these ideas:

  • Take a look at the timing, is it right? It doesn’t make sense to bring up a red-hot topic right before bedtime.

 

  • Can you agree to at least table, or pause, the topic for a later time? This could help both of you remain calm, rested, and have a better capacity to hold the discussion at a later time.  Can you at least agree to disagree for now?

 

  • Can you own your part in the argument and apologize to your partner for your role in the conflict?

 

  • Have you learned the skills to self-soothe and calm down? This is important not just for quality sleep, but also to productively respond to your partner in a calm and reasonable manner.

If you are still struggling with having arguments before bedtime, consider finding a couples counselor for help. A therapist can help you resolve reoccurring arguments, as well as teach you effective conflict resolution skills and self-soothing tools. Then, when you are at home, you can resolve and even skillfully avoid arguments altogether. Most of all, you will not only improve the health of your relationship but your physical health as well.

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