The quality of our sleep and our mental wellbeing are very strongly linked. The better the quality of our sleep is, the more energized and in control of our emotions we will likely be during the day. On the other hand, a very stressful experience during our day can, in turn, impact how well we sleep at night. We can sometimes experience this link between sleep and wellbeing quite clearly in our relationships. For instance, we may tend to argue more, or experience more irritability and impatience during periods where we feel tired. Or perhaps we are more quick to take offence when feeling fatigued. In this blog I wished to focus on 3 research findings that highlight how a good night’s sleep benefits our relationships.
- In a research study at the University of Berkeley, 78 young adults in a long term romantic relationship kept a journal about their sleep quality and relationship stressors for a period of two weeks. The researchers, Gordon and Chen (2013), found that couples that gave importance to a good night’s sleep had better teamwork, were more encouraging of one another, and showed more gratitude and appreciation for one another.
- Research also found that a lack of sleep impacts some of our ability to recognize and understand other people’s facial expressions. A study carried out at the University of Arizona in 2017 shows that when sleep deprived, the research participants managed to interpret very obvious facial expressions, but did not manage to do so with less obvious expressions of happiness or sadness. The participants’ ability to interpret subtler expressions returned once the participants had a good night’s sleep. This means that in the context of relationships, a good sleep routine can help us be more attuned to what our partner needs from us, to what they may be experiencing and also how to react empathically.
- Research also suggests that people who are sleep deprived may be more prone to experience repetitive negative thoughts, ruminate on bad experiences, and struggle to shift their focus to positive thoughts (Nota & Coles, 2018). On the other hand, those who are well rested, may shift more smoothly from one thought to the next, or to be more mindful of what is happening there and then rather than being stuck thinking about what happened. This may impact how someone views their partner and what is given most attention to (whether the focus is solely on the mistakes that the partner made or whether it is a more balanced focus).
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Rebecca Cassar is a Family Therapist practicing the Systemic Approach. She specializes in offering therapy to families, couples and individuals who are experiencing distress in their relationships. She can be contacted on email@example.com or call us on 79291817