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Effects of Poor Sleep on Your Relationships



Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate love and connection. But what if we told you that your sleep quality might be affecting your relationships more than you realize? Research sheds light on how poor sleep can impact our emotional well-being and the dynamics of our intimate partnerships.


Two hands forming a heart


Your Emotions Are All Over the Place


Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can impair emotional regulation, making individuals more prone to mood swings and irritability, further exacerbating relationship tensions.


Dr. Angela Holliday-Bell ¹, a sleep specialist, explains that poor sleep affects irritability due to communication between different brain regions. During sleep, there’s increased interaction between the amygdala (the emotional control center) and the prefrontal cortex (which regulates mental and executive functions). Sleep deprivation disrupts this communication, leading to less regulatory control of the amygdala by the prefrontal cortex.


As a result, we become more irritable, and our brain’s stress response (fight or flight) can trigger more quickly ¹. It’s like a glitchy software program. This can lead to overreactions, the inability to notice someone else’s emotions, small problems suddenly seeming bigger, and your reactions becoming amplified.



You Miss the Message


One of the most immediate effects of poor sleep on relationships is its detrimental impact on communication. Sleep-deprived individuals often find it challenging to process information and articulate their thoughts and feelings coherently. This can lead to misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and communication breakdowns, pushing you and your partner further apart.



You Become Prone to Anger


We all know that a good night’s sleep is essential for physical health, but its impact on our emotional state is equally crucial. A study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships ² by Audigier and colleagues reveals a compelling link between poor sleep quality, anger, and perceived relationship quality.



Woman laying tired in bed.


The researchers found that poor sleep quality leads to increased feelings of anger. When we're sleep-deprived, our emotional regulation mechanisms may falter, making us more prone to irritability and frustration.


Interestingly, anger fully mediates the relationship between poor sleep quality and reduced relationship satisfaction. In other words, poor sleep might cause heightened anger, which, in turn, negatively impacts our intimate connections.



Your Empathy Takes a Hit


Empathy forms the cornerstone of healthy relationships, allowing partners to understand and support each other through life's challenges. Unfortunately, poor sleep can diminish one's capacity for empathy, making it difficult to attune to their partner's needs and emotions. Consequently, couples may feel disconnected and unsupported, fostering feelings of resentment and loneliness.



Effects of Poor Sleep & Couple's Dynamics


One of the studies Audigier et al  ². conducted to explore this phenomenon magnified variances in couples' dynamics. It was found that while one partner’s sleep quality weakly influenced the other’s relationship satisfaction, an individual’s own sleep quality had a more substantial impact on their relationship satisfaction. Missing out on quality sleep over time not only makes couples feel more pessimistic about their relationship but also exacerbates feelings of anger and diminishes gratitude towards their partner.


What makes the relationship-sleep dynamic particularly insidious is the presence of a vicious cycle. Relationship problems can contribute to poor sleep, as individuals may lie awake at night ruminating over unresolved conflicts or feeling emotionally distressed. Conversely, sleep disturbances can exacerbate relationship issues, creating a feedback loop of discontent and dissatisfaction.



Take Back The Night


By prioritizing healthy sleep habits, individuals can bolster the resilience of their relationships and foster greater intimacy and connection with their partners. Here are some tips for improving sleep quality and enhancing relationship satisfaction:


Establish a Consistent Sleep Schedule

Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends, to regulate your body's internal clock and promote restful sleep.


Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine

Engage in calming activities before bed, such as reading, meditating, or taking a warm bath, to signal to your body that it's time to unwind and prepare for sleep.


Limit Screen Time Before Bed

Exposure to the blue light emitted by screens can disrupt the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep-wake cycles. Minimize screen time at least an hour before bedtime to promote better sleep quality.


Prioritize Sleep Environment

Make your bedroom a conducive environment for sleep by keeping it cool, dark, and quiet. Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows to optimize your comfort and minimize sleep disturbances.


Address the Cause of Poor Sleep

Assess your lifestyle habits and how they may be impacting your sleep quality. Take stock of the stressors in your life, whether they stem from work, family, or other sources. If you suspect that you may have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, or insomnia, seek professional evaluation and treatment.



Outlook


Double-board-certified psychiatrist and sleep medicine specialist Dr. Alex Dimitriu, fortunately, shares that the negative impacts poor sleep have are reversible once proper and quality sleep is restored ³. 


While more research is needed to dive deeper into the reasons why and how sleep affects a person's mood, sufficient sleep is widely linked to a better mood and healthier life. This Valentine's Day, remember that love isn't just about grand gestures and romantic gestures—it's also about nurturing the everyday habits that support a strong and healthy relationship.



 

Seeking Help


If your poor sleep is accompanied and characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, waking during the night, and gasping or choking, you could be experiencing sleep apnea.


Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition where your breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. This disrupts your sleep quality, reduces oxygen levels in your blood, and can lead to various health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and more.


Don't ignore these symptoms! Getting diagnosed and treated for sleep apnea is crucial for improving your sleep quality, relationships, overall health, and quality of life. A simple sleep study conducted by an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist can diagnose sleep apnea, and effective treatments like CPAP therapy can drastically improve your sleep, health, and relationships.


Schedule your consultation with Dr. David Eleff, Otolaryngologist at ENT Family today!


Address: 3911 Hollywood Blvd#201, Hollywood, FL 33021, United States

Phone: 754-888-1368






Sources

[1] McPhillips, K. (2021, November 17). How to keep exhaustion-fueled irritability from Grinching your holiday cheer. Well+Good. https://www.wellandgood.com/why-poor-sleep-affects-irritability/


[2] Audigier, A., Glass, S., Slotter, E. B., & Pantesco, E. (2023). Tired, angry, and unhappy with us: Poor sleep quality predicts increased anger and worsened perceptions of relationship quality. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 0(0). https://doi.org/10.1177/02654075231193449


[3] Holland, K. (2018, December 5). Anger and lack of sleep. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/why-a-lack-of-sleep-can-make-you-angry#Relationship-between-anger,-sleep




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Dr. David Eleff, Otolaryngologist/Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist at ENT Family in Hollywood, Florida.

This article has been medically reviewed by  otolaryngologist, David Eleff, M.D.

ENT Family Blog

3911 Hollywood Blvd, Suite 201, Hollywood, FL

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