Want to improve your marriage? Get more sleep
You've heard the marital advice, “Never go to bed angry," but a new study says that if you're arguing with your spouse more often this week, both of you prioritizing sleep could be the best solution to reduce blow-out fights and curtail inflammation in the body.
A study published in the journal, Psychoneuroendocrinology examined how 43 couples resolved disagreements while lacking sleep. The Ohio State University research team conducted interviews on couples' interpersonal behaviors, noted the use of emotion regulation strategies (emotion expression, cognitive reappraisal) during conflict , and collected blood samples, which showed the couples' inflammation in the morning, as well as their inflammatory responses to a problem discussion.
It's not surprising that when both partners experienced short sleep, their arguments were more heated and more hostile than when one partner got more sleep the night before. Anyone who's experienced shortened sleep can understand how a lack of sleep can impact emotion regulation—you probably feel less patient, easily irritated and possibly more combative when you're not getting the sleep your body needs. "Deep down, most of us know if we get irritable when we short ourselves of enough sleep. " says Dr. Mark Aloia, Global Lead for Behavior Change at Philips , "and it is certainly true that tolerance can improve with more sleep."
However, the study also found that when one partner got sufficient sleep during the two nights of the study, both partners were likely to be protected from short sleep's behavioral effects during conflict . Simply put, the arguments were taken down a notch or two.
What's interesting is when one partner had short sleep, their body showed signs of producing more inflammation after a fight. The less sleep logged, even one hour's difference, the higher the inflammation after a conflict. Remember, chronic inflammation can trigger disease processes and uncontrolled inflammation plays a part in every disease, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and even depression, according to the Cleveland Clinic website.
Previous research has shown that emotion suppression may be stressful and unhealthy and this study found that the body's inflammation response is tied to expression during conflict . When one partner experienced shortened sleep and didn't express himself or herself during problem discussion, they had more inflammation production than those who slept more. The partners who were dealing with the less expressive partners who experienced short sleep also experienced higher levels of inflammation production. People with highly expressive partners were protected from the proinflammatory effects of their own short sleep, according to the study results.
So if you're arguing with your spouse and you both didn't sleep well last night, make sure you're expressing your emotions and encourage your partner to share their feelings as well. This will help protect you from the immune response that leads to increased inflammation, and also help you from escalating your argument into a blow- out fight.