Lack of sleep may be the reason you’re fighting with your partner

By Ea Francisco

Ideally, we all want seven hours of sleep at night, maybe even more. You’re probably already aware of what lack of sleep does to your own body, but have you ever considered how it affects your partner? There are growing studies that show sleep not only brightens mood, but improves relationships too.

A 2013 study reveals that couples are more likely to lash out after a bad day’s sleep. Even if you’re generally well-rested, one day of poor sleep can already affect your conflict-resolution ability and empathy.

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The journal Psychoneuroendocrinology says that lack of sleep alongside couple fights can negatively affect your health, too. “We found that people who slept less in the past few nights didn’t wake up with higher inflammation, but they had a greater inflammatory response to the conflict. So that tells us less sleep increased vulnerability to a stressor,” says Stephanie Wilson, a researcher of the study.

They had recorded and analyzed the fights of 43 couples. While they all still argued even after getting more than seven hours of sleep, they noticed that their arguments are more hostile when the couple gets less than seven hours of sleep.

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The study furthers that when at least one of the partners were well-rested, conflict and hostility lessened significantly, and that partner would have more patience in handling the situation.

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Though it doesn’t help that in marriage, the couple’s sleep patterns track together. “If one person is restless or has chronic problems, that can impact the other’s sleep. If these problems persist over time, you can get this nasty reverberation within the couple,” says Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, the director of the Institute of Behavioral Medicine Research.

It’s not about how often couples argue but how they argue. Being well-rested can help us keep our cool and be rational in dealing with the situation.

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“We would tell people that it’s important to find good ways to process the relationship and resolve conflict—and get some sleep,” says Kiecolt-Glaser.