Sleep Deprivation Can Cost You Your Marriage
A new study says that missing out on quality shut-eye doesn't just make you cranky, irritable and harm your emotional health but it also puts you and your loved ones at risk for stress-related inflammation.
Sleep problems has been linked to inflammation and some chronic illnesses.
They say never go to bed angry but what about waking up angry? If you've ever spent an entire night tossing and turning, and then immediately started your day by snapping at your spouse, you're not alone. And science says it's not really your fault.
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A new study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology says that missing out on quality shut-eye doesn't just make you cranky, irritable and harm your emotional health but it also puts you and your loved ones at risk for stress-related inflammation. This in turn leads to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, and other diseases. So lack of sleep (plus the inevitable fight) equals an increased chance of inflammatory-related diseases for everyone involved.
"We know sleep problems are also linked with inflammation and many of the same chronic illnesses. So we were interested to see how sleep related to inflammation among married couples, and whether one partner's sleep affected the other's inflammation," said lead researcher Stephanie Wilson from Ohio State University Institute for Behavioural Medicine.
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Wilson called it "the sinister side of inflammation" the kind that can wreck a body over time. Interpersonal stressors, including marital disagreement, are very potent.
The research team recruited 43 couples who completed 2 study visits. Each time, the couples provided blood samples and said how many hours they had slept the previous two nights. Then researchers had the couples try to talk about a topic that sparks conflict in their marriage. Blood samples were taken again following the discussion.
"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," Wilson says.
If both partners got less than seven hours of sleep the previous two nights, the couple was more likely to argue or become hostile. For every hour of sleep lost, the researchers noted that levels of two known inflammatory markers rose 6 percent. Couples who used unhealthy tactics in their disagreement had an even greater inflammatory response, about a 10 percent increase with each hour of less sleep. "Any increase isn't good, but a protracted increase that isn't being addressed is where it can become a problem," Wilson said. "What's concerning is both a lack of sleep and marital conflict are common in daily life. About half of our study couples had slept less than the recommended seven hours in recent nights."
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"Part of the issue in a marriage is that sleep patterns often 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, PhD, senior author and director.
The good news is, there seemed to be a protective effect if even one partner was well-rested: this tended to be enough to neutralize disagreements started by the sleep-deprived partner, the researchers say. That's just one reason you should always shoot for at least seven hours of shuteye a night. "We would tell people that it's important to find good ways to process the relationship and resolve conflict and get some sleep," added Kiecolt.