Why your good night’s sleep may not just be up to you

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | General Health | Monday, June 30, 2014 - 06:00 AM

sleep disorderThey say a happy wife makes for a happy life, but what if the happiness of your partner could have an impact on your sleep quality, too?

One new study found that when the wife is happier with her marriage, the spouse’s sleep-wake schedule was more in sync.

The Institute of Medicine estimates that over 50 million Americans have a sleep disorder, so you’re not alone if you toss and turn at night. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) conducted a survey which found that 35 percent of people got less than seven hours of sleep each night. And new research shows that working on marital harmony could have a big effect on sleep and overall health.

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When sharing your bed affects your sleep

Because most couples share a bed, it has been noted that they tend to be in tune with one another’s sleep and wake cycles. In fact, of the couples who participated in the recent research, about 75 percent of them were asleep and awake at the same time. That percentage went up even further for couples where the wife reported high levels of satisfaction in the marriage, according to a news release from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

The study involved 46 couples who completed assessments of the state of their relationship and their sleep quality over a 10-day period. Findings were presented at the academy’s annual conference in Minneapolis earlier this month.

“Most of what we know about sleep comes from studying it at the individual level; however, for most adults, sleep is a shared behavior between bed partners,” Heather Gunn, the study’s lead author and a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, said in a statement.

“How couples sleep together may influence and be influenced by their relationship functioning.”

Because the sleep of couples is more in sync than that of random individuals, it stands to reason that the quality of our sleep is affected not just by individual factors but also by whom we sleep with and what our relationship with that person is like, Gunn noted.

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Sleep linked to relationship satisfaction

The findings echo past research about what sleep means for happiness and how our relationships can have an effect on both. A 2010 study by another University of Pittsburgh faculty member, Wendy Troxel, found that women got better sleep when they were sleeping with a partner. Later research done by Troxel found that negative interactions in couples resulted in poorer sleep, especially for women.

So the saying “don’t go to bed angry” holds some weight.

Getting good, high quality sleep is a key factor for health and happiness. Many Americans are chronically sleep-deprived, according to the American Psychological Association. Lack of sleep has been shown to harm your memory, weaken your immune system and spike stress hormones in the body that influence metabolism, putting you at risk for excess weight gain.

So making sure you get those eight hours of sleep a night is not only good for your health, but for your marriage and relationship satisfaction, too.

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