Squabbles at Home? Are Your Sleep Patterns Making You Fight?

A recent article in Sleep Review Magazine suggests some interesting correlations among partners’ sleep patterns and their abilities for conflict resolution.  The article cites researchers involved with a study at the Ohio University Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.  The main topic of this discussion was stress-related inflammation, which “is associated with higher risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, and other diseases.”  These finding are not that surprising, and a regular topic in the sleep world.  Because of the fairly common knowledge of how sleep can change a person’s physiological well-being, the researchers wanted to take things a step further.  They wanted to find out the effects of partners’ sleep patterns on their mates.

They invited 43 couples in for two visits.  Both times, blood samples were taken and the previous two nights’ sleep amount was recorded per partner.  By inciting a known source of contention amongst the couple, the researchers recorded their conflict resolution throughout the process.  They concluded the visit by taking blood samples for a second time.  

A researcher on the study, Dr. Stephanie Wilson, stated “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.”  In other words, someone that has had less sleep is more prone to react poorly to a conflict.

“If both partners got less than 7 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%.” Another interesting note – the inflammatory response almost doubled when the couples employed unhealthy discussion tactics.  

With findings such as these, it is concerning to also hear from Dr. Wilson that “About half of our study couples had slept less than the recommended 7 hours in recent nights.”  

Perhaps the most crucial part of the study was mentioned by Dr. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, who stated “Part of the issue in a marriage is that sleep patterns often track together.” Anyone that has shared a bed with another person can relate to having a troubled sleeper next to them. If one person in the bed sleeps poorly, the risk is greater that both will sleep poorly.  

There was one hopeful area of the study, though; it was noted that there was a “protective effect” between a couple with a well-rested and sleep-deprived partner.  The partner with better rest employed better conflict resolution mechanisms to pull the other out of the disagreement.   

As it is continually shown, a good night’s rest is crucial to our physical and emotional well-being as people.  If tensions at home are high, try getting a better night’s sleep.  If you are having trouble sleeping, find out why by scheduling a sleep study.  Pittsburgh Dental Sleep Medicine can help you find some answers.

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