A new research abstract suggests a bidirectional association exists between couples’ sleep quality and the quality of their relationship.
In other words, on a day-to-day basis, a couple’s relationship quality affects their sleep, and their sleep also affects their subsequent relationship functioning.
For men, better sleep (as indicated by diary–based sleep efficiency) was associated with more positive ratings of relationship quality the next day.
For women, negative partner interactions during the day were associated with poorer sleep efficiency for both themselves and their partner that night.
“When we look at the data on a day-by-day basis, there seems to be a vicious cycle in which sleep affects next day relationship functioning, and relationship functioning affects the subsequent night’s sleep,” said principal investigator Brant Hasler, clinical psychology doctoral candidate at the University of Arizona.
“In this cycle, conflict with one’s partner during the day leads to worse sleep that night, which leads to more conflict the following day. Although these results are preliminary due to the relatively small sample size and a subjective measure of sleep quality, the woman’s perception of the relationship seems particularly important, as it impacts both her own and her partner’s subjective sleep quality that night.”
The study involved data from 29 heterosexual, co-sleeping couples who did not have children. Each completed sleep diaries for seven days. Each partner was asked to record the quality of interactions with their partner six times a day.
Hasler said that interventions directed at improving either quality of sleep or relationships may provide overall benefits, as the two directly impact each other. Hasler recommends that couples should resolve disputes before going to bed and avoid confrontational discussions on a day when one or both of them had a bad night’s sleep.