As it happens, sleep deprivation not only kills your romance, but is also risky for your health. Researchers at the Ohio State University Institute for Behavioural Medicine has discovered that lack of sleep increases the chances for stress-related irritation that is related to higher risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis and other diseases.
“We know sleep problems are also linked with inflammation and many of the same chronic illnesses. So, we were interested to see how sleep related to inflammation among married couples, and whether one partner’s sleep affected the other’s inflammation,” said lead researcher Stephanie Wilson.
The research team involved 43 couples who participated in two study visits. Every time, the couples gave blood samples and reported the hours of sleep they had for the last two nights. Then researchers then told the couples to attempt to solve a topic that was creating conflict in their marriage. Blood samples were again gathered after the attempt at resolving the issues.
“We found that people who slept less in the past few nights didn’t wake up with higher inflammation, but they had a greater inflammatory response to the conflict. So that tells us less sleep increased vulnerability to a stressor,” Wilson said.
The study revealed that if both partners slept less than seven hours the previous two nights, the couple was more prone to quarrel or become unfriendly. For every hour that they did not sleep, the researchers observed that degree of two known inflammatory markers rose by 6 percent. Those couples who resorted to unhealthy methods in their fights had an even greater inflammatory reaction, around a 10 percent increase with each hour of no sleep.
“Any increase isn’t good, but a protracted increase that isn’t being addressed is where it can become a problem,” Wilson said. “What’s concerning is both a lack of sleep and marital conflict are common in daily life. About half of our study couples had slept less than the recommended seven hours in recent nights.”
That’s greater than the current national average. The CDC states that 35 percent of Americans sleep less than seven hours every night. “Part of the issue in a marriage is that sleep patterns often track together. If one person is restless, or has chronic problems, that can impact the other’s sleep. If these problems persist over time, you can get this nasty reverberation within the couple,” said senior author Janice Kiecolt-Glaser.
Researchers were reassured to see that there was a protecting effect if one of the partners had slept well, or attempted to resolve conflict in a healthy manner. They tended to minimize the dispute that might be initiated by the partner who has not slept well.
“We would tell people that it’s important to find good ways to process the relationship and resolve conflict and get some sleep,” Kiecolt-Glaser said. The study is published in the journal Psych neuroendocrinology.