If you find yourself fantasizing about your next cup of coffee more than your partner, start taking notes. According to a study published earlier this summer, your sleep patterns affect your relationship beyond the side-eye you give them for talking to you before caffeine. Fortunately, it's not necessarily bad news. Although it's well-established that sleep deprivation takes a toll in virtually every aspect of your life, including relationships, researchers at Florida State University have found that the opposite is also true — sleeping more than average predicts a happier relationship.
Previous research has shown that idealizing your partner can create a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, but focusing on the positives takes a certain level of work, whether or not it's conscious. In a study published in the Journal of Family Psychology, researchers hypothesized that sleep would be a way to replenish the energy needed for this kind of self-regulation. To that end, according to New York Magazine's Science of Us, researchers asked 68 young, heterosexual newlywed couples to answer daily questionnaires regarding their sleeping habits, specific aspects of the relationship, and overall relationship satisfaction. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the data showed an association between greater amounts of sleep and higher relationship satisfaction — in other words, people who slept more than usual the previous night were less cranky when evaluating their marriage the next day.
But that's not the only interesting takeaway: According to the study, men who had more sleep were more inclined to be happy overall, even when they had negative things to say about the specifics of their relationship. (The same wasn't true for the women in the study.) "These findings suggest that sleep may offer self-regulatory benefits," researchers Heather Maranges and James McNulty concluded in their paper.
Considering the many and varied ways sleep deprivation can drive you a little nuts, Maranges' and McNulty's findings make sense. On top of making you look like an extra on The Walking Dead, lack of sleep slows down your thought processes, makes you cranky, and even causes you to be more selfish — not exactly the qualities people look for in a life partner. Over time, it also comes with a wide range of health problems, including diabetes. Unfortunately, most of us are so busy being over-caffeinated night owls that the Centers for Disease Control declared sleep deprivation a public epidemic last year.
On the other hand, there's an easy solution: Getting more shut-eye. The study's findings aren't as cut-and-dry as “get some sleep and you’ll fix your relationship,” but when your brain isn't working under an impenetrable fog of sleep deprivation, pretty much every area of your life will feel more manageable. At the very least, you'll stop scaring baristas with the depth of your caffeine addiction.
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