A partner’s sleep can influence our own, and vice versa. Research from Dr. Wendy Troxel, a behavioral scientist at RAND and advisor to Sleeprate, has shown that relationship conflict can spill into shared sleeping problems at night, which in turn can fuel even more relationship conflict the next day. On the other hand, higher levels of relationship satisfaction have been linked to better sleep.
Researchers are still not clear on exactly how healthy relationships improve sleep. One suggestion is that a good relationship confers feelings of safety and security which can help people fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply. On the other hand, research has compared couples on nights when they slept together versus apart. One study found that when couples sleep together they reported being more satisfied with their sleep, although they actually spent less time in what is known as deep sleep, a stage of sleep important for processes of recovery and repair.
One thing that is for sure, a supportive partner can help people recover from sleep problems. For example, Ellis, Deary, and Troxel (2014) reported better outcomes for patients receiving Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia when they viewed their partner as an ally in the treatment. These results underscore the importance of enlisting your partner and family when you are trying to improve your sleep. Dr. Wendy Troxel says “as with most health behaviors, working towards one’s goal (e.g., for better sleep) together with one’s partner can provide the necessary support and motivation to increase the chances of success.” In summary:
- Higher levels of relationship satisfaction have been linked to better sleep
- Many couples are more satisfied with their sleep when they share the same bed
- A supportive partner can help people recover from sleep problems
For more information, watch Sleepless in America. Premiers on the National Geographic Channel, on November 30th, 8/7 central.