Poor Sleep Linked Relationship Problems
July 9, 2013

Could Poor Sleep Be The Cause Of Your Relationship Woes?

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

New research from a team at the University of California, Berkley suggests sleepless nights could turn lovers into fighters.

According to a study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, people are more likely to lash out at their romantic partners if they haven't had a good night's sleep.

Researchers collected data on the sleep habits of more than 100 couples who had been together for an average of two years. They gauged participants for depression, anxiety and other stressors in order to focus solely on the link between the couples' sleep quality and relationship conflicts.

The team asked 78 young adults in romantic relationships to provide daily reports over a two-week period about their sleep quality and relationship stresses. They said the participants reported more discord with their partners on the days following a bad night's sleep.

"Our research helps illuminate one factor that leads couples to engage in unnecessary and harmful conflict by showing that couples experience more frequent and severe conflicts after sleepless nights," said UC Berkeley psychologist Amie Gordon, a doctoral student in psychology and lead author of the study.

During a second experiment, the team had 71 couples rate how they had slept the previous night and then discussed with their partners a source of conflict in their relationship. Each partner then rated his or her own emotional interactions during the conflict conversations and assessed whether they resolved the disagreement. The findings pointed to a continuation of the pattern, showing those who had slept poorly reported feeling more negatively towards one another during the conflict discussion.

"For the first time, to our knowledge, we can see the process of how the nature, degree, and resolution of conflict are negatively impacted by poor sleep," said Serena Chen, a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley. "Even among relatively good sleepers, a poor night of sleep was associated with more conflict with their romantic partner the next day."

Another study published recently in the Journal of Neuroscience in January found a good night's sleep could also help relieve anxiety. This study was the first to make a causal link between sleep loss and anxiety-like brain activity.

According to results of yet another large population study, a good night's sleep can also positively affect the benefits of other lifestyle choices, such as exercise, healthy diet, moderate alcohol consumption and non-smoking in protection against cardiovascular disease (CVD). This research group found adding a good night sleep on top of other factors lowered the risk of composite CVD by nearly 10 percent more than without sufficient sleep. Adding a few more zzz's into the sleep schedule also reduced the risk of a fatal CVD-related event by 16 percent.