Feeling unappreciated is a common problem among spouses and romantic partners, new research suggests it may be fueled by poor sleep.
University of California, Berkeley researchers investigated the role of sleep habits as related to gratitude in relationships. They discovered sleep deprivation can leave couples “too tired to say thanks” and can make one or the other partner feel taken for granted.
“Poor sleep may make us more selfish as we prioritize our own needs over our partner’s,” said Dr. Amie Gordon, a UC Berkeley psychologist and lead investigator of the study.
Gordon and her co-investigators believe the results shed new light on the emotional interdependence of sleep partners, offering compelling evidence that a bad night’s sleep leaves people less attuned to their partner’s moods and sensitivities.
For many couples, nighttime can turn into a battleground due to loud snoring, sheet-tugging or one partner tapping on a laptop while the other tosses and turns.
“You may have slept like a baby, but if your partner didn’t, you’ll probably both end up grouchy,” Gordon said.
The study was inspired by Gordon finding that many people claim to be too busy to sleep, and are proud that can get by on just a few hours of sleep. That inspired her, in part, to study how a lack of zzzs might be affecting love lives.
During the research, more than 60 couples, with ages ranging from 18 to 56, participated in the studies.
In one experiment, participants kept a diary of their sleep patterns and how a good or bad night’s rest affected their appreciation of their significant other.
In another experiment, they were videotaped engaged in problem-solving tasks. Those who had slept badly the night before showed less appreciation for their partner.
Overall, the results showed poor sleepers had a harder time counting their blessings and valuing their partners.
Gordon says the way to maintain a positive relationship is for the poor sleeper to establish a habit of telling their partner “thanks” when the partner does something nice. In other words, take an active step to let them know you appreciate them.