Effects of Poor Sleep: Increased Bickering with Your Partner


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Poor Sleep Can Make You Argumentative. Image by Craig Loftus.

Poor sleep can make you argumentative. Image by Craig Loftus.

We all know that there are negative effects of poor sleeping habits. A lack of sleep can make people feel irritable, unhappy and sluggish.

Recent research has found that inadequate sleep causes increased worries about future events, and now, researchers have learned that insufficient sleep is also linked to relationship problems.

Strife in a relationship strongly affects the level of satisfaction with the relationship. In a 2011 study, Dr. E.M. Woodin of the University of Victoria, British Columbia reviewed 64 studies about conflict in couples.

She recorded behaviors shown during arguments: withdrawal, hostility, problem solving, distress and intimacy. Dr. Woodin also found that both men and women expressed lower relationship satisfaction when their arguments featured hostility, distress and withdrawal.

Conversely, those who demonstrated problem solving and intimacy during arguments felt satisfied with their relationships.

Lack of Sleep: Gateway to Unsatisfying Relationships

Two researchers at UC Berkeley, Amie Gordon and Serena Chen, have published a new study finding that problem solving skills and feelings of intimacy go out the window after a bad night’s sleep.

While some degree of conflict between romantic partners is usual and expected, partners who haven’t slept well are more likely to have hostile arguments that are marked by mutual misunderstanding.

After a poor night of sleep, both conflict resolution skills and the ability to correctly assess one’s partner’s emotions are minimized.

Drs. Gordon and Chen interviewed more than 100 couples who had romantic relationships. The participants self-reported their quality of sleep and the amount of discord they had with their partners. Generally, they described experiencing more arguments with their partners when they had not slept well during the previous night. Furthermore, they described feeling greater hostility toward their partners during arguments after they had experienced a poor night’s sleep.

Insomnia Damages Health and Relationships

The new findings concur with earlier studies. In 2011, the British Mental Health Foundation conducted a comprehensive study on the state of sleep in Britain. The report showed that people with insomnia were four times as likely as those without insomnia to have relationship problems. Moreover, they were three times as likely to show a lack of concentration, and three times as likely to feel depressed.

According to the report, insomnia tends to follow a vicious cycle, with decreased sleep leading to poor mental health, and poor mental health causing poor sleep sleep. Insomnia is a disorder which is psychophysiological in nature, meaning it results from a combination of physiology, behavior, emotions and thoughts.

Thus, a poor night’s sleep can result from a physical problem, such as a stomach ache, but can quickly develop into a psychological problem. For example, someone who has suffered a few sleepless nights can become so anxious about not sleeping that he or she cannot fall asleep! Chronic sleeplessness can result from the depression and anxiety caused by poor sleep.

Dr. Dan Rothbam, lead researcher of the report, notes that the discordant relationships caused by poor sleep are likely to have long standing effects. The ability to maintain healthy relationships is vital to a person’s happiness. Relationships that are marked by hostility and misunderstanding create a susceptibility to depression. Not surprisingly, more than 80% of the study’s respondents who had insomnia reported regularly experiencing a low mood.

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