Do Relationships Affect Sleep? A New Study Shows Your Relationships Now Can Mess With Your Sleep Later
Can't sleep? The ghosts of relationships' past could be to blame. Yep, poor sleep quality might be related to your romantic relationships, according to a new study published in the journal Personal Relationships. "The quality of a person's romantic relationship and the life stress he or she experiences at two key points in early adulthood (at age 23 and 32) are related to sleep quality and quantity in middle adulthood (at age 37)," a press release about the study explained. Oh, good grief. No wonder I can't sleep.
When I was 23 I was involved in a tumultuous relationship I'm still recovering from emotionally, and when I was 32, I told my then-husband I wanted a divorce. Can you say stress? Does this mean I'm forever condemned to insomnia? "Sleep is a shared behavior in many romantic relationships, and it is a strong contender for how relationships 'get under the skin' to affect long-term health," the press release explained.
"The study's findings add to a growing body of literature showing that one of the important ways in which relationships impact individuals is by reducing the occurrence and severity of life stress." OK, I have never had a relationship that reduced stress, so perhaps I am doing this whole adult-relationships thing all wrong.
What's more, people who aren't getting enough sleep are less appreciative of their partners, a study from the University of California, Berkeley, noted. "Poor sleep may make us more selfish as we prioritize our own needs over our partner’s," Amie Gordon, a UC Berkeley psychologist and lead investigator of the study, said in a press release.
So, if these two studies inform one another, poor relationship experiences at 23 could leave you sleepless at 32, which could make you more selfish and resentful of your BAE. If you can relate, it doesn't mean you're never going to get a good night's sleep again.
Like most things in life, there's more than one way to do things. Bustle Features Editor Gabrielle Moss wrote in 2018 that getting a "sleep divorce" actually improved her marriage. In two previous relationships I did the same, opting for two full-size beds in the same room instead of sharing one. It helped a lot.
Along these lines, Katherine Schreiber and Heather Hausenblas, Ph.D., explained on Psychology Today that many couples who have trouble sleeping are opting to sleep separately. This means that even if you had a rocky relationship at 23, doing what's best for your sleep can help you get more of it 10 years later. Sleeping apart doesn't have to mean separate bedrooms — it can be as simple as separate beds. Seriously, life is hard enough without losing sleep for love.
"Although a large body of evidence shows that relationships are important for health, we are just beginning to understand how the characteristics of people's close relationships affect health behaviors, such as sleep," lead author of the Personal Relationships study, Chloe Huelsnitz, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Minnesota, said in the press release. "The findings of our study suggest that one way that relationships affect health behavior is through their effects on individuals' stress."
This means that aside from prioritizing your sleep, it's also important to find ways to reduce stress, especially if you're not in a stress-free relationship. Make sure you have a solid bedtime routine that includes self-care like yoga or a warm bath, unplugging from your devices, and a comfy-cozy bedroom environment. Sleep is one of the most important parts of staying healthy. Don't let your past dictate how much you get because you deserve all the sleep you want.