Nowadays, we live in a fast-paced, high-stress culture where inadequate sleep is more common than getting enough sleep. According to the Sleep Disorders Institute, the symptoms of insomnia include difficulty falling asleep, frequent waking during the night, being awake for long periods and experiencing “non-restorative” sleep that leaves you tired. Experiencing insomnia at night can result in significant distress for a sufferer, who may spend hours turning and tossing.
People with insomnia say that they have a difficult time dealing with even minor stress. They also have more problems relating to other people in social and work settings than those without insomnia. Some research shows that people with insomnia generally have a lower quality of life than people who do not have sleep difficulties.
We tend to acknowledge that sleep is critical for memory, driving skills, and mental health, but we do not fully appreciate how vital it can be to our health. Most people understand how bad it is to skip a night of sleep, but fewer people are aware of the dramatic effects of chronic short sleep (e.g., five to six hours per night), and that self-reports of sleepiness do not always indicate a deficit. Taking that into account, how does sleep affect the ability of a relationship to function?
There’s nothing more frustrating than waking up after a restless night’s sleep and then getting into a senseless argument with your partner the next day. Or you unnecessarily dwell on a conversation with a friend, analyzing each word said. Sleep deprivation leads to impaired relationships with people around us as well as suboptimal mental and emotional states.
Read on to find out how lack of sleep impacts our relationships in the following sections.
Sleep deprivation increases emotional reactivity
Researchers have found that sleep deprivation increases activity in the amygdala, the brain’s emotional response center. We receive most of our immediate emotional responses from this part of the brain. When you don’t sleep enough, your amygdala goes into overdrive, making you more reactive to situations. It’s not just our negative emotions, like anger and fear, that are amplified. Studies demonstrate that sleep deprivation increases our reactivity across all aspects of our emotional range, positive and negative.
As well as firing up the amygdala, lack of sleep also hampers communication between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex, another area involved in emotional regulation. This part of the brain is involved in many complex functions, including curbing impulsivity. In the absence of enough sleep, this part of your brain is less able to function normally, and your emotional responses become more impulsive. This can lead to more conflict and less satisfying relationships.
Having difficulty making decisions or poor decision making
In every relationship, there are decisions to be made, whether it is what to have for dinner or when to introduce your new significant other to your family. Unfortunately, making the wrong choice in a major decision can have extremely negative consequences for a relationship.
As explained by Psychology Today, sleep plays a major role in the effectiveness of the prefrontal cortex, which controls aspects of ‘executive functioning’ such as making high-level decisions, analyzing consequences, determining goals, and setting expectations. According to PT, ‘sleep deprivation can lead to distraction, recklessness, lack of innovation, and potential for dangerous risks. Getting enough rest is essential to making life-changing decisions. The arguments were more likely to end positively or constructively if one partner slept well.
You’ll feel more stressed
In addition to experiencing heightened levels of stress hormones, sleep-deprived individuals are more likely to make mistakes and be less focused, both of which can result in increased stress by nature. Anxiety and pressure can negatively affect relationships, especially in couples, since stress is known to decrease sexual drive.
In addition, having a healthy relationship requires showing our partners that we care and appreciate what they do for us. But research found that lack of sleep diminishes gratitude for our partners.
It is not only harmful to our own mental and emotional wellbeing when we lose sleep, but it is also detrimental to those around us as well. Sleeping well is critical for restoring your mood and keeping you grounded and level-headed. Ensure that you are getting the right amount of sleep each night, and your relationships might just improve.
How to fix it
If you can’t sleep well, you’ll need to determine why. Is your partner snoring? Are you stressed or depressed? Does your sleep pattern differ from one night to the next?
Don’t worry if you can’t identify the problem right away. Try keeping a sleep journal, including what time you go to sleep and wake up. The sleep journal may also help you clear your head before you go to sleep. It should allow you to notice patterns and identify areas of sleep difficulty. Then, make sure the bedroom is a comfortable space. Find the right bedding items for you, make sure your room is at a nice temperature and there’s no light coming in.
If irritability and negative emotions still persist after you change your sleep habits, you might have a more serious underlying problem. If you experience uncontrollable anxiety or abnormal behavior, it’s time to speak with a physician. It could be because of a mental disorder or a physical problem, such as sleep apnea or insomnia, which decrease proper sleep and therefore put the sufferer at greater risk for mood and behavioral issues.
It is proven that getting at least seven hours of sleep every night can improve almost every aspect of our lives, including our body health and love relationships. So get some sleep today!