October 04, 2022 2 min read
We are aware of the effects sleep has on our mood, cognition, and performance, but we may not realize that our relationships also depend on it.
Relationships depend on decision making, shared responsibility, even humor and
attractiveness. You may find it surprising, but missing just 2 hours of sleep at night can affect each and every one of those aspects (and your perception of them). That seems like not a lot of time, but it can have a big negative effect on your relationship.
During a couples trial, couples were asked to participate in a sleep restricted study. The couples included were all monogamous and reported to have healthy, stable relationships. During this trial, one partner was only allowed to sleep for 6 hours while the other partner got a full 8 hours. The following day, researchers paid for the couples to spend a fun day together doing whatever they wanted without any of their normal day to day responsibilities.
At the end of the day, the couples were separated and the researchers asked them a set of questions about the other partner. These questions were specific to the relationship and their partners' communication, emotions, and connection they experienced that day compared to normal.
What did they discover? It doesn’t matter which partner was sleep restricted, both partners reported inconsistencies around their normal behavior. They weren’t as affectionate, they didn’t communicate as well, and they weren’t as fun.
What does this prove? It proves that the person who is sleep restricted is not only behaving differently, but is also perceiving differently.
Even with as little as 2 hours less of sleep, you are more likely to misinterpret your partners' communication, or actions. In turn, because your behavior and communication is slightly different, your partner is likely to mirror these same behaviors.
Ultimately, one of the foundations of a healthy relationship rests on the quality of sleep. When either partner's ability to communicate effectively is impaired, it doesn’t just affect them; it affects the whole relationship. Not getting an adequate amount of sleep can decrease your perceived attractiveness and significantly impact your relationship over time.
Relationships are multifaceted and require a lot of work by all parties. One of the keys to a healthy, happy relationship is to commit to getting a good night's sleep.