New research suggests the inability of a wife to fall asleep is more of a marital problem than if a husband is troubled by insomnia.
Investigators discovered that, among wives, taking longer to fall asleep at night predicted their reports of more negative and less positive marital interactions the next day, and it also predicted their husband’s reports of less positive marital interaction ratings the following day.
In contrast, husbands’ sleep did not affect their own or their wife’s report of next day’s marital interactions.
“We found that wives’ sleep problems affect her own and her spouse’s marital functioning the next day, and these effects were independent of depressive symptoms,” said principal investigator Wendy M. Troxel, Ph.D.
“Specifically, wives who took longer to fall asleep the night before reported poorer marital functioning the next day, and so did their husbands.”
The importance of sleep is demonstrated in the fact that the relationship between nightly sleep and next day’s marital interactions was more important than daily marital interactions and subsequent sleep.
Curiously, however, husbands’ reports of higher levels of positive marital interactions predicted their own shorter sleep duration the next night.
The study involved 32 healthy, married couples with an average age of 32 years. Participants were free of clinically relevant sleep, psychiatric or medical disorders.
The amount of time it takes to go to sleep after the lights are turned off, waking after falling to sleep, and total sleep time were measured for 10 nights.
The quality of marital interactions was assessed daily over the 10-day assessment using electronic diaries to evaluate positive marital interactions such as feeling supported or valued by spouse, as well as negative marital interactions such as feeling criticized or ignored by spouse.
According to the authors, the findings show that sleep disorders such as insomnia can have a negative impact on marital relationships.
“These results highlight the importance of considering the interpersonal consequences of sleep and sleep loss,” said Troxel.