Most of us know the adage that tells couples never go to bed angry.
Well, researchers have found that a lack of sleep can make arguments between couples nastier. So, maybe we need a new saying: If you’re fighting, get some sleep and talk again in the morning. It’s not as pithy, but it might be more effective.
Researchers at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, studied 43 couples in the lab, videotaping them arguing about common relationship problems like money. They also measured proteins (interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha) that can cause inflammation in the body and, in turn, lead to chronic diseases like diabetes, according to a Sept. 11 article by Reuters.
The study found that levels of those proteins and levels of inflammation rose when couples had slept less than seven hours and after they had a nasty argument. When both partners were sleep deprived, their discussion was more hostile than if one person was well-
rested, researchers found.
Interestingly, if couples used more constructive communication techniques to discuss relationship problems, their protein levels didn’t rise, even if they hadn’t had enough sleep.
“This is the first study to show the synergistic effects of short sleep and conflict for inflammation,” lead author Dr. Stephanie J. Wilson told Reuters. The study was published in the May issue of the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.
“So, while more sleep may not solve the world’s marital discord, it could lubricate many of our relationships,” the article says. “Sleep affects the parts of the brain that solve problems. Without that ability, it is hard to have a ‘good’ row, which requires active listening, good humor and self-disclosure.”