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How Tiredness Affects Relationships

How Tiredness Affects Relationships

How Tiredness Affects Relationships

The effects of sleep deprivation on your relationship


When you haven’t had good quality sleep, you’re more likely to feel tired and irritable. That in turn affects the way we interact with other people. In short, sleep deprivation can have a negative effect on your relationships with friends, colleagues, and - most significantly - romantic partners (who sometimes get the blame for our disturbed sleep).


We like to think we know a thing or two about keeping the peace, having designed the Simba Hybrid® Mattress to minimise motion transfer (helping you sleep through your partner’s habitual tossing and turning). But if you’re not getting Simba-quality rest, what happens the morning after?


We asked the experts Professor Vicki Culpin, author of The Business of Sleep, and Hope Bastine, our resident psychologist and mindfulness expert, to tell us how sleep deprivation affects our relationships.


Being tired makes you angry with your partner


Remember when you had control over your emotions? When you’re sleep deprived you’re far more likely to take things badly, especially when they come from someone who’s close to you. Hope says: “When you haven’t had enough shuteye, your reactions to emotional stimuli can send your feelings into overdrive, triggering mood swings.” In a nutshell, nobody likes spending time with someone who is confrontational and erratic - exactly what you’ll be if you don’t get enough good sleep.


Sleep deprivation makes you forget things


When you don’t catch enough Zs, your brain cells don’t have the precious time they need to rejuvenate. You could find yourself forgetting deadlines, birthdays and the fact you put the oven on over three hours ago, which could make your partner feel hurt (“You forgot my work anniversary?!”) But it doesn’t end there. Studies have shown that chronic sleep deprivation can even cause your brain to conjure up ‘false’ memories, which could have dire consequences for your love life if you misremember an argument. 


When you’re tired, you want to be alone


That feeling of wanting to be around absolutely no-one when you’re tired is actually rooted in physiology. Vicki comments “A study at the University of Berkeley used MRI scanning to show that after one night of no sleep, the area of the brain that encourages social interaction shuts down.” That’s fine sometimes - we all need me-time - but wanting to be alone a lot might not be great for your relationship.


Bad sleep upsets our routines


Does your other half really want to listen to a six-year-old episode of Have I Got News For You from the next room? You might assume staying awake until the early hours will help tire you out, but this behaviour simply turns into a cycle - and will only make your sleeping pattern more inconsistent. The blue light emitted from your TV and phone screen doesn’t help either, as it obstructs production of crucial sleep hormones. It can all lead to increased conflict with our loved ones.


Sleep deprivation makes your other half grumpy, too


You might think that you’re the only one actually suffering from the sleep deprivation blues, but Vicki says “In the same study at the University of Berkeley, not only were the participants seen as lonely and less socially active but, incredibly, this feeling was contagious. People who watched a 60-second clip of the sleep-deprived individuals said that they themselves felt more alienated.” So spending time with the sleep-starved version of you could negatively affect your partner too - and you could both end up in a cycle of cold-shouldering.


You don’t feel attractive


Research has found that tired people come across as less attractive, and not just because of the inevitable eye bags. Tired people actually look less healthy and less sociable. That won’t matter to your other half (they love you no matter what), but if you don’t feel your best, it affects your confidence and happiness - and once again, that can make you less likely to spend quality time with your partner. Time for some beauty sleep, then.


You make bad decisions regarding your partner


Being tired seriously affects your decision-making, so you could find yourself splashing out on luxuries you wouldn’t normally consider and picking arguments that wouldn’t usually bother you. These could lead to more conflict than usual, which isn’t something anyone wants.


How can you sleep better to improve your relationship?


Of course, not every relationship problem is down to bad sleep, but the general grumpiness that comes from disturbed nights certainly has a part of play in everyday conflict.


The best solution is to get a full night’s sleep every night. As Vicki explains, “The effect of poor sleep doesn’t need a night of total deprivation. Research shows if you’re woken up around four times in one night, for ten minutes each time, it’ll have the same impact on your mood as if you’d had only four hours sleep.” Luckily, there’s lots of great advice out there for getting better about bedtime, from creating a restful environment for sleep to fine-tuning your routine.


You can start with a critical look at your current mattress - especially if it’s been a while since you bought it. Is the sagginess giving you a sore back? Are you and your partner see-sawing all over the place with every turn? If so, you might want to check out a mattress that’s designed to be supportive, oh-so-comfortable and great at keeping your wriggles to yourself. The Simba Hybrid® Mattress was developed using data from ten million sleepers to suit every body type. And you and your partner get 200 nights to give it a go - so you might well find it’s another match well made. After all, isn’t it time to wake up to a better night’s sleep?


Vicki Culpin’s book, The Business of Sleep, is available from Bloomsbury. Find more from Hope Bastine on this blog and at Fresh Perception.


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