The One Time Sleeping Separately From Your Partner Is A Good Thing
We found this information from an article in the Wall Street Journal really interesting – your relationship satisfaction could depend on your bedtime. Let’s take a closer look…
Many studies have found co-habiting couples generally have healthier sleep than single people, with fewer problems like insomnia. Experts think it’s because they tend to have more stable sleep-wake routines and help co-regulate each other.
But what about couples with out-of-sync sleep schedules? Researchers found spouses who go to bed at different times report significantly less relationship satisfaction than those on the same schedule. They have more conflict, spend less time in shared activities and serious conversation, and have sex less frequently than couples with similar sleeping schedules.
Which comes first, though – mismatched sleep or poor relationship quality? The answer might depend on whether you are a man or a woman.
In a 2010 study, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, University of Pittsburgh researchers followed 29 heterosexual couples for a week, looking at their sleep quality at night and their relationship satisfaction in the day. The couples kept sleep diaries and wore motion-sensitive wrist devices, and they assessed interactions with their spouses up to six times a day using digital palm devices.
The researchers found men reported more relationship satisfaction after a night of sleeping well, while women slept better at night after a day of reporting higher relationship satisfaction. Also, women reported less relationship satisfaction after a night when they and their partner went to bed at different times.
“Women are more sensitive to the highs and lows of relationships, so women show a link between relationship functioning and sleep,” says Wendy Troxel, a clinical psychologist, behavioural and social scientist at Rand Corp and a co-author of the study. “For men, sleep has an effect on their functioning, so that affects their relationships.”
In a yet-to-be-published study, Troxel and colleagues found that when women reported higher relationship satisfaction, they were more likely to have been asleep at the same time as their partner the night before, almost down to the minute. This effect wasn’t true for men.
The findings beg a question: If you and your partner sleep at different times, should you try to sync up?
Experts say partners often share the same sleep pattern. People tend to pair up with others on the same schedule, perhaps as a matter of opportunity: Early birds aren’t often in bars after midnight, nor are many night owls in the gym at dawn. The tendency to share sleep schedules is independent of the length of the relationship – meaning it isn’t as if one partner adjusts to be like the other.
In fact, it really isn’t easy to change your innate sleep rhythm, experts say. Circadian preferences are genetically driven, in part, so change would be stressful for both the individual and the relationship – and very difficult to accomplish without professional help, if you are at one extreme or the other. Most of us can adjust our sleep a bit based on need, such as to get up early for work. But this doesn’t mean we’ll get the optimal amount of sleep.
Couples who have mismatched sleep schedules – and a lot of problem-solving skills – can achieve relationship satisfaction, research has found. If differing sleep patterns are a source of conflict, partners can start by asking whether simple steps, like minimising noise and light while the other is asleep, will help. Experts offer a surprising next step: Try sleeping separately.