When it comes to relationships, everyone has advice. They’ll tell you that the key to happiness in love is communication, understanding, patience, and/or appreciation of your partner. However, a recent study has found that the key to a longer-lasting, more loving relationship may actually be something very surprising and very simple: good sleep!
According to psychologist Amie Gordon of UC Berkeley, “Poor sleep may make us more selfish as we prioritize our own needs over our partner’s.” Gordon and fellow UC Berkeley psychologist Serena Chen have conducted a study of the impact that poor sleep can have on gratitude and selfishness and, thus, how it can impact the health of romantic relationships.
The Selfishness Factor
In short, according to Gordon and Chen’s study, lack of sleep or poor sleep makes us more selfish. As such, we’re less likely to show appreciation of and/or affection for our partners. As a result, even if one partner gets a great night’s sleep, if the other partner’s sleep has suffered, both are likely to suffer. According to Gordon, “You may have slept like a baby, but if your partner didn’t, you’ll probably both end up grouchy.”
How Your Sleep is Affecting Your Relationship
So how did Gordon and Chen arrive at their findings? Their study followed 60 heterosexual couples with ages ranging from 18-56. Each couple participated in 3 separate exercises, measuring quality of sleep and its effects on their levels of gratitude and appreciation for their partners. The three exercises included:
- Upon waking from a night of sleep, making a list of 5 things they were grateful for.
- Keeping a daily record of sleep and feelings of gratitude for their partners for a span of two weeks.
- Studying the way sleep affects the gratitude dynamic between partners. In this portion, Gordon and Chen studied not only how grateful partners felt toward each other but how appreciated they felt by the other, as well.
The results were overwhelming. Subjects who slept better showed consistently greater senses of appreciation for their partners. Quality of sleep also directly correlated with how appreciated subjects felt by their partners, as well as how much they appreciated them (2).
Separate Beds Aren’t Necessarily the Answer
According to Michael Breus, PhD, in an article for WebMD, a number of couples have chosen to solve the issue of poor sleep by opting for separate beds. In fact, a full 25% of couples polled have reported sleeping separately, and that number is on the rise. However, Dr. Breus warns against this solution. While it may solve issues of poor sleep due to snoring, restlessness, etc., it also undermines a couple’s sense of attachment and connectedness. And it certainly decreases the likelihood of a couple to engage in spontaneous intimacy, which is also associated with healthy and loving long-term relationships.
If poor sleep is due to one person’s snoring, or worse, undiagnosed sleep apnea, separate beds are not going to improve that person’s quality of sleep. Thus, the problem of lack of gratitude and increased resentment will still be there, but the couple will also feel less connected, as they won’t be sleeping side-by-side anymore. That spells trouble for the relationship.
So what can you do? If you and/or your partner are having issues with quality of sleep, you’ll do much better for yourselves and your relationship by getting to the bottom of of it. Going to a sleep clinic for a sleep study will give you the answers you need. Sleep apnea can be treated with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, weight loss, and/or surgical treatments. Also, according to Dr. Breus, couples who sleep in the same bed are much more likely to stick with the treatments for their sleep disorders.
For most couples, it would seem, the key to a long lasting, happy, and loving relationship may be to continue sharing a bed and getting the right treatment to get the best sleep possible on a regular basis. Let the professionals at Sleep Rite help you start getting the rest you need for yourself and your loved one.
“Poor Sleep Can Leave Romantic Partners Feeling Unappreciated”. 19 January 2013. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-01/uoc–psc011713.php. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
Breus, Michael, PhD, ABSM. “Sleep Well”. WebMD. 19 February 2013. http://blogs.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/2013/02/sleep-the-key-to-a-long-term-loving-relationship.html. Retrieved 21 February 2015.