How Bad Sleep Can Mean A Bad Relationship

by Teresa Newsome
Portrait of a dreadlocks braid topknot bun woman lying and sleeping on the sofa. Concept of depressi...
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Is there anything worse than a bad bed-sharer? Sometimes I think I'd rather have a partner that wastes all my money than one who keeps me up at night (and not even in a sexy way). It's not just me. Science tells us that bad sleep ruins relationships. In fact, a 2013 seep study performed by Gordon and Chen found that even one single night of bad sleep can have big negative consequence for you and your significant other. Just one! Imagine what weeks, or even months of poor sleep can do. I don't want to live in that world. I would probably end up sleeping in a separate bedroom. Or wind up in jail.

All exaggerations aside, the need for good sleep is real. When you don't get good sleep, it isn't just your relationship that suffers. Your mental and physical health also decline. You have no energy, you have a bad attitude, you gain weight, you're at a higher risk for diseases. And to bring it full circle, your mental and physical health can also impact your relationship. It's a whole viscous cycle. When I worked with couples as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, I worked with dozens of couples whose entire relationships could have been saved by just sleeping in separate bedrooms.

Bottom line, there are so many ways poor seep negatively impacts your life, including your love life, that it's something you definitely need to get in check. I'm not saying you have to break up with a bad bed sharer, but I am saying that if there's a solution, you need to find it. Otherwise, the solution will be never seeing each other again. Nobody wants that.

1. It Will Make You Cranky

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Have you ever seen a bear that got woken up before hibernation season was rightfully over? (On like, YouTube or something; don't go messing with real bears.) They're angry. That's pretty much where the phrase "angry bear" comes from. My point is, when you don't get enough sleep, you're an angry bear. Angry bears aren't good at relationships. They're snappy, they're impatient, they're not nice. You kind of have to be nice when you're in a relationship. When you're not nice, arguments happen. Sleep is essential for kindness and peace.

2. It Will Make You Fight

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The Gordon and Chen study followed coupes over a two week period and found that couples who reported sleeping poorly had much higher incidences of conflict. They disagreed more, argued more, and got on each other's nerves more. Most importantly, they were less responsive to each other's needs, and less appreciative of what the other had to say. They were much shorter and less receptive when they communicated with each other. All from one night of crappy sleep.

3. It Will Make You Lazy

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When you don't get enough sleep, are you trying to go on awesome dates and do awesome stuff, or are you trying to watch Netflix in your underwear? Don't get me wrong, Netflix and underwear (or lack of underwear) can make for an awesome date... once in a while. But eventually your partner is going to want to leave the house. And they're going to want you to enjoy yourself on said outing. Always being tired can put a definite strain on your dating game, (or your leaving the house game) which in turn, puts a strain on your relationship.

4. It Will Lead To Drama

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In a healthy relationship with healthy communicators, both partners should be patient, kind, and focused on solutions. OK, a little venting is necessary sometimes, too, as long as you're not being disrespectful or crossing your partner's boundaries. When you're tired and grumpy, you have less of a filter. You hear things from a place of tiredness, not maturity. You're not as mature. You don't have the energy to be patient. You might even be a little more emotional than normal when you're overtired. All these things together lead to the perfect storm for drama, miscommunication, hurt feelings, and fights over ridiculous things.

5. It Ruins Your Sex Life

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If you're not sleeping well, you're not going to be sexing well. First, and most obviously, you're going to be too tired for sex. And if you have sex despite being tired, you're probably not going to bring your A game. Second, when you're tired, it screws with your libido, with means you don't even want to have sex as much. Third, poor sleep causes changes in your body that can lead to sexual dysfunction, like erectile dysfunction (inability to get or maintain an erection), or hormone imbalances.

6. It Can Mess With Your Self-Esteem

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So we've established (and we already knew, because common sense) that sleep makes you grumpy, but over the long term, that gumpyness can morph into a serious case of anxiety and/or depression. That's because, in addition to messing with your body and brain chemistry, lack of sleep also makes it harder for you to cope with problems and recover from ups and downs. All this causes your self-esteem to take a hit, and low self-esteem is like kryptonite to healthy relationships. It changes how you express yourself, how (and if) you ask to get your needs met, and what you're willing to tolerate from your partner. The fallout can be very testing, if not detrimental, to your relationship.

7. You'll Be Less Awesome

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Let's face it. You're like four buckets full of awesome, in a world where most people are only one bucket full of awesome. But when you lose sleep, you're not as awesome as you could be. You're less attractive when you're not getting enough sleep. You're worse at sports and art and other taxing activities. You have less of a sense of humor. You don't put as much effort into things. You make poor decisions. Put that all together, and it's a lot for your partner to deal with. Your partner fell in love with you because you were, well, you, not the worn out, cranky, version of yourself.

What's the solution? Well, you gotta do what you gotta do. Some couples have sex and snuggle time, then sleep separately. Some seek medical help or seep therapists. Some can get by with earplugs or separate blankets. Whatever you have to do, do it, before it costs you your relationship.

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