New research suggests the way we believe our partner understands and cares for us influences how well we sleep.
The finding is important as we spend up to one-third of our life asleep and quality of sleep is a significant factor for both physical and mental health.
“Our findings show that individuals with responsive partners experience lower anxiety and arousal, which in turn improves their sleep quality,” said lead author Dr. Emre Selçuk, a developmental and social psychologist at Middle East Technical University in Turkey.
Experts explain that one of the most important functions of sleep is to protect us against deteriorations in physical health. However, this protective function of sleep can only be realized when we have high quality uninterrupted sleep, known as restorative sleep.
Restorative sleep requires feelings of safety, security, protection and absence of threats. For humans, the strongest source of feelings of safety and security is responsive social partners — whether parents in childhood or romantic partners in adulthood.
“Having responsive partners who would be available to protect and comfort us should things go wrong is the most effective way for us humans to reduce anxiety, tension, and arousal,” said Selcuk.
The research, published in the journal Social Personality and Psychological Science, supports research findings from the past several years by the authors.
Investigators used data from the Midlife Development in the United States project, and from past projects. This research showed connections between partner responsiveness, physical health and psychological well-being over several years.
“Taken together, the corpus of evidence we obtained in recent years suggests that our best bet for a happier, healthier, and a longer life is having a responsive partner,” Selçuk said.