Most people believe that marital problems can lead to sleepless nights, but a new study from the University of Pittsburgh shows that sleepless nights might also lead to marital problems.  Anyone who has struggled with sleep knows that when you don’t get enough sleep, everything in your life suffers.  Lines seem longer, little things get bigger, and relationships with everyone from your boss to your spouse become harder to manage.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise that not getting the sleep you need can make the interactions with your spouse more difficult the next day.  But these research results might surprise you.

The study, which was presented at the meeting of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, looked at the relationship between sleep patterns and marital interactions for clues into how sleep can impact or undermine this type of relationship.  Using data collected while participants slept, in conjunction with an ongoing diary kept by each participant, researchers hoped to show that lack of sleep or sleep disturbances were tied to marital discord and negative interactions between spouses.

The study included 35 healthy couples whose average age was 32 years old.  All participants were free of sleep, medical, or psychiatric disorders that might impact the results of the study including symptoms of depression which can impact both marital interactions and sleep.  Each participant’s sleep patterns were monitored and data on how long it took them to all asleep, how many times they woke up, and how much sleep they got over the course of each night was collected.   The sleep data was combined with the information captured in the participant’s diaries which recounted martial interactions and asked participants to answer a series of questions like how supported they felt and if they felt criticized, in order to gauge how they felt each day.

The findings were surprising.   The study showed that difficulty falling asleep at night, not sleep duration,  lead to poor or negative marital interactions the next day, but only if it was the wife who had difficulty falling asleep.  This finding was consistent from both the perspective of the wife and the husband.  The relationship between difficulty falling asleep and difficult interactions the next day was also much stronger than the relationship supporting the theory that marital problems lead to sleepless nights.

However, the husband’s ability to fall asleep or stay asleep had no bearing on how the couple interacted the next day.  The study did show that the husband’s sleep was impacted, but not by times of conflict or strife as husband’s got less sleep after having a very positive day with their wives.

The research team’s findings show that sleep disorders and disturbances experienced by the wife, including insomnia and delayed sleep onset, can have a significant impact on marriage over the long term.  While past research has shown that women who cohabitate with their partners and women who are happily married have less trouble sleeping than other women, this study expands the importance of sleep on those factors.  Perhaps someday, the first step to marriage counseling will be a visit to a sleep doctor and a prescription for the wife to get a good night’s sleep.

About Valley Sleep Center:

Since 2002, Valley Sleep Center, accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, has provided Arizona with diagnostic sleep disorder testing in a home-like atmosphere, ensuring a comfortable, relaxing experience for patients.  Their Board Certified Sleep Medicine Specialists consist of experienced and knowledgeable physicians who provide expert advice across a multitude of sleep related disorders including insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, hypertension, sleepwalking, and pediatric sleep problems.  They accept most insurance plans as well as Medicare.  For more information contact Lauri Leadley at 480-830-3900;


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