The Effect Of Sleep On Relationships And Social Bonds
January 20, 2013

Sleep Deprivation Could Adversely Affect Romantic Relationships

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

The key to enjoying a long, happy, and healthy relationship could be making sure you get enough sleep, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley claim in a new study.

In research presented Saturday at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) in New Orleans, lead investigator Amie Gordon, a psychologist at the university, and colleagues discovered that sleep deprivation can leave romantic partners too exhausted to say “thank you” to one another, resulting in their significant others to feel taken for granted.

"Poor sleep may make us more selfish as we prioritize our own needs over our partner's," Gordon, a sixth-year Ph. D. student who worked on the research along with UC Berkeley psychologist Serena Chen, said in a statement. "You may have slept like a baby, but if your partner didn't, you'll probably both end up grouchy.”

Their findings, the researchers say, provide new insight into “the emotional interdependence of sleep partners, offering compelling evidence that a bad night's sleep leaves people less attuned to their partner's moods and sensitivities. For many couples, nighttime can turn into a battleground due to loud snoring, sheet-tugging or one partner tapping on a laptop while the other tosses and turns.”

Gordon and Chen conducted a pair of experiments, each involving over 60 couples between the ages of 18 and 56, the university explained. In the first, each participant maintained a journal of their sleep patterns, as well as how their appreciation of their significant others was impacted by the quality of their previous evening´s slumber. In the second, couples were asked to complete problem-solving tasks, and those who did not have a good night´s sleep the previous night demonstrated less appreciation for their partners.

"A plethora of research highlights the importance of getting a good night's sleep for physical and psychological well-being, yet in our society, people still seem to take pride in needing, and getting, little sleep," Gordon said in a separate statement, released by the SPSP this weekend.

“In the past, research has shown that gratitude promotes good sleep, but our research looks at the link in the other direction and, to our knowledge, is the first to show that everyday experiences of poor sleep are negatively associated with gratitude toward others — an important emotion that helps form and maintain close social bonds,” she added. “Poor sleep is not just experienced in isolation“¦ Instead, it influences our interactions with others, such as our ability to be grateful, a vital social emotion.”

Other studies, also presented at the SPSP meeting, found links between other behaviors and a person´s levels of happiness. Among the behaviors linked to happiness are spending more money on others than they do on themselves and spending more money on experiences such as vacations or concerts than on material objects.

Michael Norton of Harvard Business School and Elizabeth Dunn of the University of British Columbia, co-authors of the first study, said that their work demonstrates “for the first time“¦ that giving away money or spending it on others confers the ironic psychological benefit of increasing the giver's sense of wealth.”

Cornell University´s Amit Kumar, who worked on the latter study, said, “Well-being is likely to be enhanced by shifting the balance of spending in our consumer society away from material goods and towards experiential ones“¦ This research also suggests that there are benefits to be had not only by nudging people to choose experiences over possessions, but also by encouraging people to share stories about their experiences.”