Relationships and Rest: A Vicious Cycle

It’s no secret that a good night’s rest is a key ingredient of a happy and healthy waking life. In modern societies where time is often seen as a commodity and stress prevails among much of the population, getting a night of quality, undisturbed sleep is often seen as a luxury. But the need for adequate rest is clear, as it affects everything from mood to productivity to physical health. Recently, a study was performed to understand the impact of sleep on romantic relationships, and as you might have guessed, there is a clear correlation between the quality of sleep a couple receives and the perceived quality of their interactions.

The study followed twenty nine couples over the course of a week; each individual was asked to record their thoughts on the quality of interactions during the day, as well as information about their sleep during the night. While the information recorded about interactions was necessarily subjective to a certain degree, the trend was clear: those couples who received a poor night of sleep experienced a decrease in the quality of interactions the following day. To make matters more difficult, women who recorded poor experiences during the day subsequently received a lower quality in sleep that night, as did their partners.

This “vicious cycle” of sleep and social interaction may have important implications for therapists and counselors, especially those who work with couples. While there are a range of methods involved in working out differences and creating a positive, rewarding relationship, the benefits of working out any differences before heading off to bed can be included as a valuable tool in the arsenal of healthy relationships. And getting quality sleep may become a more pressing prescription.

© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Jeff

    Jeff

    June 30th, 2009 at 1:57 AM

    My wife and I went for counselling regarding frequent tiffs we’ve been having. This was the first thing we were advised. Nice, long rested weekend. We are both doing 2 jobs and sleep is definitely a luxury at this point. I for one totally agree that lack of sleep can wreck havoc on your personal relationships.

  • Anna

    Anna

    July 1st, 2009 at 2:25 AM

    I lost 3 boyfriends in a span of 5 years in Medical school. The main contributing factor to that was lack of physical intimacy and lack of sleep. All work and no play definitely makes life dull.

  • Leon

    Leon

    July 1st, 2009 at 2:36 AM

    I think lack of sleep definitely makes one feel lousy and affects the way we deal with people.

  • Caroline

    Caroline

    July 1st, 2009 at 6:03 AM

    This really applies to every aspect of your life. You cannot communicate well in a relationship, in your job, or at anything else that we all have to do every day unless you get enough sleep. There are so many of us who do like burning the candle at both ends but eventually that will catch up with us and something has to give. Unfortunately what seems to go first is the way we deal with others in a pleasant manner- who knows how many people have experienced breakups and work difficulties that all could have been solved by getting better and more adequate sleep at night.

  • Jill

    Jill

    July 2nd, 2009 at 7:33 AM

    Aren’t there even studies which say that getting enough sleep is an integral part of maintaining a healthy weight and overall lifestyle? There was a time in my life when I would have never thought that this was true, but as I have gotten older I have learned to value my sleep, go to bed earlier, and feel much more productive as a result in more ways than one!

  • Andy

    Andy

    July 2nd, 2009 at 8:38 AM

    Obviously there are enough studies that prove everyone needs adequate sleep to be productive and happy both at work and at home. But there aren’t many people coming up with solutions, which I’m guessing annoys a fair number of people that know they need more sleep but can’t get it.

    I wonder if the problem here is that too many employees are required to take their work home and on vacation.

    Employers need to understand that requiring an employee to carry a smartphone, a laptop and to always be available is unproductive and unhealthy.

    Perhaps it’s time to make employers liable for the burn out or accidents that happens when their employees spend too much time on the job and not enough time recovering from it.

    Employers that require their staff to work unpaid hours every day of the week should definitely be held responsible for anything that happens to the employee as a result of not hiring sufficient staff to do the work necessary.

    A person that can’t go on vacation without his or her smartphone is working for an inefficient, selfish and greedy employer. Everyone willing to do this at the expense of someone who isn’t, is contributing to the problem and enabling these selfish and greedy employers.

    Bottom line is in the future people will ask how employers got away with requiring their staff to work 24/7 365 days a year and then fire that staff when they become burned out from being overworked. Just as we wonder how we accepted child labour and other irresponsible health and safety practices employers used to engage in, in order to make a profit at the expense of their workforce.

  • meggan scott

    meggan scott

    July 2nd, 2009 at 4:18 PM

    haveing life long sleep disorders adapting to a mix up is possible . it wasn’t hard for me … i was really little when it began …. i take a few psyche meds but am not being pushed to take meds . my decision to say no has been respected in the present but never in the past minus 6 years in the present

  • Pam

    Pam

    July 4th, 2009 at 12:37 PM

    I showed this to my husband who stays up all night playing video games and then tries to have a normal daytime life too. Needless to say that is not going too well and is taking a toll on us and everyone he is in contact with. He read the article here but the jury is still out over whether or not he is going to take any of it to heart.

  • Nikki

    Nikki

    July 5th, 2009 at 8:45 AM

    I am so stressed out from my days that it is almost impossible to get good rest at night! And you are right- this is a vicious cycle that I feel I have no control over at all!

  • Jillian

    Jillian

    July 6th, 2009 at 5:15 AM

    Take a well deserved time out for yourself Nikki. It will be so well worth it in the end.

  • ninabe werness sandot- yoga therapist

    ninabe werness sandot- yoga therapist

    July 6th, 2009 at 10:06 AM

    One of the first questions I ask a client is about sleep as it has the most profound effect on our health and happiness. Its lack is what ages us quickest.
    In my practice as a yoga therapist, I suggest that everyone explore aspects of meditation and Yoga Science in order to intensify the benefits of slowing down. There is a Yoga Nidra practice, a form of guided deep relaxation, that allows for the Body and Mind to slow down enough to relieve stress and trauma. It is said that 20 minutes of this Yoga Nidra is equal to 4 hours of sleep!
    I also suggest to everyone in my practice meditation for at least 5 minutes a day. This allows the Mind to stop functioning in the speediness of the front brain. As one focuses on breathing, one begins to find space in between thoughts which supports more creativity and inner peace.
    This information is important for our culture to get. We are so hooked on moving quickly, which only creates a very superficial way of living our lives. It is no wonder that intimacy in relationship is a struggle in contemporary culture…When do we every practice being other than stressed and speedy?
    And the very first suggestion I make to every new client is…to take a breath whenever you need. Its a great invention and its free!

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