Study Reveals Just One Bad Night’s Sleep Can Cause Relationship Problems

Sleep for health

How do you feel when you don’t get enough sleep?

  • Tired (obviously)
  • Irritable
  • Foggy
  • How about negative or selfish?

Have you ever noticed a little extra tension in your relationship with your spouse or significant other when one or both of you come up short on sleep?


How Bad Sleep Can Damage Relationships

couple arguing

Photo Credit: Adam Arroyo via Compfight cc

A new study finds that even one bad night’s sleep can be surprisingly damaging to a relationship (Gordon & Chen, 2013). In the research, 78 couples were tracked over a two-week period. Each day the couples made notes about their sleep quality and any arguments they’d had with their partners.

The results showed that even for those who were good sleepers, just a single night’s poor sleep was associated with increased relationship conflict the next day and only one partner in the couple had to to have a bad night’s sleep for the their relationship to suffer the next day.

The study revealed 4 main areas where the relationships suffered:


4 Relationship Damaging Effects of Poor Sleep


  1. Less empathy. The worse couples slept, the less empathy they showed towards their partners. And it worked both ways: after a bad night’s sleep, not only did they find it difficult to judge their partner’s emotions, it was difficult for their partner to read them in turn.
  2. More negativity. There will always be bad feelings at some stage in a relationship; but to be a good relationship overall, these should be massively outweighed by the good feelings. When partners slept poorly, this ratio went in the wrong direction towards more negative feelings.
  3. Conflict resolution problems. When tired, couples found it harder to resolve their differences.
  4. Selfishness. Poor sleep can induce more selfish feelings in partners and they feel less able to appreciate and feel gratitude towards the other.

We all know that adequate sleep is important for good health, job performance, creativity, and learning. But now we can add healthy relationships to the list.


The Good News


Good night's sleep

The good news is that improving sleep can improve the relationship. In fact, it works both ways. One study has found that better sleep encourages better relationships and that the improved relationship status feeds back into improved sleep (Hasler et al., 2010).

*Source: via PSYblog


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