Sleeping is a fundamental part of being a human being, but many people report that they are unable to enjoy a full night’s sleep due to stress, social problems or tumultuous family relationships, according to a new study led by Jennifer Ailshire, PhD, from the University of Southern California and Sarah Burgard, PhD, MD, from the University of Michigan. Whether these troubled relationships are with immediate family or other family members, they can certainly have a huge impact on sleep patterns.
The sleep study used the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States to ascertain what role family relationships played on sleep habits.
The reasons why people suffer from insomnia or stress-related sleep issues has not been adequately studied, but many scientists are able to hypothesize and present ideas to their patients.
For instance, people who spend the better part of their days with a spouse who is non-supportive or emotionally unavailable may not be able to properly express their feelings about things that happen in their day-to-day lives. Psychiatrists and psychologists report that individuals in this situation often suffer from anxiety or depression; either of these conditions can cause sleep interruptions and the inability to fall asleep.
Time Constraints and Lack of Sleep
Another reason why people often experience sleep issues due to family troubles has to do with the time constraints placed upon these individuals by their families. Single parents with small children are often the primary caregivers and are forced to live their lives around their children’s well-being.
This may include waking up at night for feedings or handling the needs of sick children on their own. Though this often happens with single parents, it also happens in two-parent households when each parent works a different shift.
Individuals who have taken in elderly family members or who are providing hospice care within their homes may also suffer from sleep-related issues.
While the individuals within the household are the ones most likely to impact sleeping habits, non-immediate family members—or those who live elsewhere—can also play a significant role in the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. This is because a fight with an aunt, cousin or even a disagreement with a mother-in-law can cause individuals to stay awake while thinking about the situation.
In fact, most people do not realize that they will be better able to handle the situation calmly after they have gotten between seven and eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. The lack of contact with certain family members may also play a role in sleeping patterns, especially if the individuals are close.
Improving Sleep Patterns
Though it certainly takes two people to improve a relationship, there are steps an individual in any of these situations can take in order to enjoy a better night’s sleep. First, everyone needs a healthy way to respond to stress within the family. This may include talking to a trusted friend, joining a support group or even seeking therapy in more severe situations.
Also, follow the typical sleep guidelines, including sticking to a regular sleep schedule and turning off televisions and computers at the same time each night; many people swear by meditation. There are over-the-counter and prescription medications that can help, but these should be avoided by anyone who is the sole caregiver of small children.
There is no doubt that troubled family relationships can be a leading cause of sleep issues in people of any age. Though the first course of action should always be to repair the relationship, it is sometimes best to simply accept things as they are. Anyone whose sleep problems are affecting their daily lives may want to visit a physician in order to prevent more serious issues.
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