Is lack of sleep negatively affecting your relationship?
Have you ever considered that it is lack of sleep negatively affecting your relationship? Having been through the ringer with sleep myself, I know just how dangerous a trap sleep deprivation can be; both for ourselves, and for those closest to us. It’s not unusual for you to read this and think you’re handling the lack of sleep just fine. Yet, in reality, the wedge between you and your partner is growing. Surely it’s just your busy lifestyle, lack of time or bad drivers on the road that’s making you so frustrated… or is it?
It’s not you, it’s them
What is it about you having a lousy night’s sleep that makes everyone else so awful? Yes, I said everyone else.
It seems that way, doesn’t it? You have a night of broken, interrupted, just plain lousy sleep, and the next day people around you are driving like they’ve been lobotomised. The person in front of you is umming and aaahing about their coffee order when you’re running late, and your work colleague is asking you the same dumb question that you’ve already answered a million times.
Seriously, is the universe messing with you? Is there a hidden camera somewhere and a group of sadistic YouTube pranksters sending these people into your path? Maybe. I’m not saying that’s not a possibility, but a much more likely explanation is that your lack of sleep is making it impossible for you to react rationally to frustrating situations.
Hear me out.
Lack of sleep makes you blame others
Researchers from the University of Arizona released a study way back in 2006 (which, forgive me, I just discovered recently) that showed people who were deprived of sleep over a 55 hour period had…
- An increased tendency to blame others for problems
- Reduced willingness to alleviate a conflict situation by accepting blame
- Increased aggression
- Lower willingness to behave in ways that facilitate effective social interaction.
This all happened in just over 2 days. I know this might not seem like especially earth-shaking news, we all know lack of sleep is bad for people, but it speaks to a broader point.
Let’s put a baby in the picture
Just for the sake of example, lets now imagine that you and your partner are the proud parents of a new baby. Your lives are undoubtedly blessed. But let’s not kid each other; a new baby is a huge responsibility. Babies require their parents to make, on average, a billion decisions a day. (OK, I am estimating here, but it can’t be far wrong). And for every decision that has to be made, you and your partner need to come to some sort of an agreement that it is the right way to go.
Consider some of these examples:
What time should we put him to bed?
What do we do when he starts crying?
Are we going to breastfeed? Are we able to?
Those sample questions need to be agreed upon and then re-evaluated if things aren’t going well. And they are just three of an infinite number of choices you’ll make in the first few weeks of parenting. Just three simple questions, but every single one of them is an opportunity for disagreement.
Are you psychologically primed to get angry?
Now, it may be true that you and your partner have a great method of solving disputes, and you may have already agreed on a lot of these answers before you even got pregnant. But, as any parent knows, all of those decisions are up for renewal the second baby is actually here and things start going off the rails.
So, there you are, faced with all of these decisions. Decisions that should be approved by both you and your partner, because you’re a team. But you’re frustrated because things aren’t going smoothly to begin with. Then to top it all off, your ability to recognise and respond to each other in a rational, civilised manner has been seriously compromised by lack of sleep.
It’s not unknown for these two people, who undoubtly love each, to be forced to debate the most important decisions they’re likely to make in their lives. Yet they’re also psychologically primed to blame one another, get angry, and they are less likely to play fair or accept responsibility. OMG. Nightmare, right?
Then there’s lack of gratitude and libido
As if being psychologically primed to be angry isn’t bad enough, couples experiencing lack of sleep are less likely to show gratitude towards each other. And they are significantly more likely to feel unappreciated, according to Amie Gordon, a doctorate candidate in social-personality psychology at UC Berkeley.
And that’s not all, consider the fact that lack of sleep decreases libido, which means you won’t be having sex as often, if at all. Indeed, many of the parents I work with have told me they’ve stopped having sex altogether. Which makes sense, since one of them is sleeping on the couch, bed hopping or sleeping next to baby. And in those rare opportunities where they get the opportunity to fool around, they both say they’re too tired and just not in the mood. Can you relate?
Now, I want to point out that many couples get through this period in their lives with their partnership intact. I am not for one moment trying to suggest that sleep deprivation is going to be the end of your relationship. A baby who isn’t sleeping isn’t necessarily going to result in divorce. But I can say without reservation, it’s most certainly not going to help matters!
Is the romantic vision fading?
Babies are amazing, and such a blessing. Nothing compares with those first few months when you and your partner look down on that precious new life that you created together. It’s been built up to be the most romantic experience you can envision; arm in arm looking into the bassinet or cot. And it’s a period in your life that deserves to be cherished.
But that romantic vision crumbles significantly if you and your partner are constantly fighting because neither of you are getting enough sleep.
There are so many reasons to make your little one’s sleep a priority when it comes to their well-being. I’ve written about that before. But lets take a selfish little detour for a moment and consider what it can mean for you, your partner, and your relationship.
After all, if there’s one gift your children will always appreciate (after sleep), it is seeing their parents happy, united, and in love.
Before you take it further, get your little one sleeping through the night!
So, before you commit to couples’ therapy; before you move to those separate bedrooms; before you even get into one more heated argument over which route to take to daycare; try taking a week to commit to getting your little one sleeping through the night and see how you feel once you’re all getting the rest you need. The results, I promise you, are nothing short of amazing. And I’m here to help and make sure it gets done right first time.
If you’re ready to learn more about how I can get your little one sleeping well, book a free discovery call to discuss your specific situation. And don’t forget to follow along on Facebook, Instagram and sign up for my newsletter to stay in the know with sleep.
Because you’re ALL worth it.
Kahn-Greene, E. T., Lipizzi, E. L., Conrad, A. K., Kamimori, G. H., & Killgore, W. (2006). Sleep deprivation adversely affects interpersonal responses to frustration. Personality and Individual Differences, 41(8), 1433-1443. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2006.06.002 Gordon, A. M., & Chen, S. (2014). The Role of Sleep in Interpersonal Conflict: Do Sleepless Nights Mean Worse Fights? Social Psychological and Personality Science, 5(2), 168–175. https://doi. org/10.1177/1948550613488952