Sleeping together may ignite the wrong flame
Fighting with your spouse can cause you both to lose sleep, but losing sleep can also cause you to fight with your spouse. This chicken-egg conundrum has serious health implications for couples, especially if sleepless nights are more than a rare occurrence.
One study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology in 2017 explored the effects of a poor night of sleep on marital conflict. Researchers from the Ohio State University Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research acquired blood samples from 43 couples both before and after they had a fight, on two separate occasions. The couples supplied information about topics known to generate spats in their household, as well as their recent sleep history. Researchers instructed each couple to discuss the contentious topic and to then supply a blood sample. Findings indicated that couples who fought after not getting enough sleep had measurably higher levels of stress-related inflammation. This type of physiological response can put both partners at a heightened risk for many diseases, including diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis.
While losing one night of sleep is no big deal, Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD, senior author of the aforementioned study and director of the Ohio State University’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research, emphasizes that sleep loss becomes dangerous over extended periods of time. “If couples don’t find ways to effectively address their differences, having continuously elevated levels of inflammation could put them at higher risk for health problems,” she says. While the study didn’t address the value of sleeping apart, doing so could allow couples to simmer down and for cooler heads to prevail come morning, according to this advice from marriage counselors.
Your bed partner’s sleeping pattern affects yours
It’s not just marital spats that can cause insomnia. If one of you has trouble sleeping for any reason, both of you may experience negative consequences. “Part of the issue in a marriage is that sleep patterns often track together. If one person is restless, or has chronic problems, that can impact the other’s sleep,” explains Kiecolt-Glaser. “If these problems persist over time, you can get this nasty reverberation within the couple.”