All for Love: How Sleep Affects Relationships

September 08, 2018

All for Love: How Sleep Affects Relationships

We need to talk.

Listen: every relationship has its ups and downs, and couples fight about all sorts of things. But sleep science is increasingly proving that many of those fights may not be necessary. (Like, seriously, you’re just overreacting.)

Last year, an Ohio State University study of 43 couples found that while all couples experienced conflict at some point, some argued constructively and even used kind language, while others argued in a hostile, negative way. Most interesting to us? The researchers found that the hostile couples were getting the least sleep.

“When people have slept less, it’s a little like looking at the world through dark glasses,” said Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, a relationship scientist and director of the Ohio State Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research. “Their moods are poorer. We’re grumpier. Lack of sleep hurts the relationship.”

The OSU research team invited the couples to the lab and prompted them to talk about issues that regularly caused arguments. The researchers filmed the conversations, then evaluated them to determine whether the interactions were positive or negative, and whether the responses were hostile or constructive.

Sleep well, be kind.

The data showed that couples in which both partners had more than seven hours of sleep tended to do better during disagreements. “The better functioning couples could [argue] with humor and kindness but clearly still disagree,” Kiecolt-Glaser explained. “The poorer functioning couples could get pretty nasty.”

The study also suggested that if even one partner in the relationship got sufficient sleep, the relationship could improve.


Of course.

The notion that poor sleep can affect relationships is nothing new — and probably seems like common sense — but apparently there’s a lot of science to back up the idea. A 2007 study from the University of Pittsburgh found that the more sleep problems spouses have, the happier they are. Another study from two psychologists at the University of Pittsburgh found that men were more likely to have negative interactions with their significant others if they had slept poorly the night before. A 2014 study said that couples who reported sleeping poorly experienced more marital conflict than couples that got better sleep.

It’s not hard to understand why a lack of sleep would contribute to poor relationship health. If you’re sleep-deprived, you suffer from impaired decision-making and a poor overall mood — and that’s a lovely cocktail of nasty.

A poor night’s sleep throws the amygdala — the part of the brain that processes emotion and memory — out of whack. You might not be as sensitive to others’ emotions, or you might overreact to a stressful situation, you may act like toddler who doesn’t get that lollipop she really wants.


Do it for love.

We get it: sleeping well is always a challenge. But just like we know sleep is good for your mental and physical health, it could improve your relationships, too.

So, figure it out. Seriously.

One big step toward a better night’s sleep is investing in a great mattress. Ours are made with the most luscious high-density foams and highest quality fabrics. And all of ’em will prevent what’s called motion transfer — that annoying thing that happens when your partner moves and your whole bed jiggles. So consider a new mattress — your relationship just might depend on it.