When You Skimp on Sleep you’re Likely Harming Your Relationship

Most of us have had the experience of being irritable or cranky after a poor night’s sleep.  Research shows that poor sleep can lead to chronic health problems. It should come as no surprise then that sleep quality can affect relationships too. Researchers were interested in how poor sleep can lead to increased inflammation and thus impact relationship quality.

Less Sleep Means More Inflammation

What they found was that those who had a poor sleep experience did not wake up with increased inflammation levels in their blood. However, they did have an inflammatory reaction in their blood when exposed to stress and conflict during the day. Basically, if a partner got poor sleep that may not necessarily cause increased inflammation, but those (sleepy) people were more vulnerable to higher levels of inflammation after a conflict or a stressful moment.

If you get adequate sleep, levels of inflammation remain low. The researchers also found differences in how couples dealt with conflict. Those who used unhealthy tactics during disagreements had an even greater inflammatory response.  They found approximately a 10% increase in their inflammatory response for every hour of lost sleep.

What Does This Mean for Couples?

It’s important to note that even for couples who are skilled communicators, having poor sleep still causes an increased inflammatory response. Couples who deal with that stress unproductively make the inflammation worse. Dealing with conflict in unproductive ways can lead to greater relationship problems, as well as an increased inflammatory response.

If that’s not enough of a reason to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night, other recent research suggests how important a good night’s sleep really is.  The research not only linked good sleep with having a satisfying sex life but also with life satisfaction and overall well being. So what can you do ensure a better night’s sleep?

How to Get Better Sleep

Here are some useful sleep hygiene tips:

  • Focus on developing a regular sleep schedule and stick to it as much as possible. Do not deviate from your schedule for more than 15 minutes each night. If you need to wake up earlier one day, take at least a few days to adjust.
  • Put away all electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Associate your bed with sleeping. Don’t watch TV, eat/drink, or other leisure activities in your bed (with the exception of your sex life).  
  • If you can’t fall asleep, don’t stay in bed longer than 30-45 minutes. You want to associate your bed with sleep, remember? Get up for 15 minutes and engage in some kind of light activity, non-stimulating activity such as reading before returning to bed to try again. Avoid watching TV or using your phone.
  • Eliminate all caffeine after 12 PM. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others, but it is still important to avoid this stimulant when you are working on improving sleep quality.
  • Exercise regularly but make sure to finish your workout 2-3 hours before bedtime.
  • Develop a sleep routine for at least a half hour before bedtime; try a relaxing activity.  Take a hot bath, listen to relaxing music, read a book, whatever it is that helps you to calm down and relax before sleeping.
  • Don’t rely on alcohol as a crutch for falling asleep. Alcohol actually does get in the way of a good night’s sleep because you are less likely to sleep soundly and more likely to wake up in the middle of the night. It also reduces the amount of REM sleep (or deep sleep).

If you try these tips but are still struggling to get a good night’s sleep, consider meeting with a therapist or alternatively talking to your medical professional. Remember, getting enough sleep isn’t just good for your physical health; it also has a big impact on your mental well- being and your relationship.

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