How Sleep Impacts Your Relationship

Humans are social creatures. No matter how happy you might be spending time by yourself, science tells us that we are most healthy when we spend time with other people. So over time, our sleep has evolved to aid us in a social environment, boosting the skills we need to navigate this interpersonal world.

This Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to talk about the ways sleep helps us in our romantic relationships specifically. While being in a romantic relationship can be a fun and rewarding experience, it’s also not exactly easy. We humans may be social creatures, but we’re also individuals, and we come into every relationship with our own histories, aspirations, quirks, and pet peeves, which makes blending your life with someone else a definite “learning experience”, to put it nicely.

The good news is that getting a good night’s sleep makes things easier for you and your partner—the two of you well-rested are calmer, kinder, and better equipped to focus on the moments that really matter.

Sleep brings patience

Ever tried arguing with your significant other late into the night, refusing to go to sleep until you’ve come to some sort of agreement? Ever had that go particularly well? Yeah, we’re guessing it didn’t.

A recent study showed that (no surprise) when we’re tired, we’re much more likely to get angry than if we were well-rested. This means you’re more likely to start fights when you’re tired, and may be more inclined to escalate a fight—maybe by, say, bringing up that small comment your partner made six months ago—when normally you would try to de-escalate. A study of real-life couples found that we’re also much better at conflict resolution after we’ve gotten a full night of sleep.

While your parents’ rule “never go to bed angry” is a good reminder to not let important things go unspoken, when it comes down to serious nighttime arguments, the best thing you can actually do is resolve with your partner to pause the argument until after you’ve both had a full night of sleep. Though you might not cuddle up close that night, the next day you’ll be more willing to make peace than fight, and maybe be a little more understanding of each other’s perspectives—thanks to the soothing power of sleep.

Sleep helps you manage stress

Perhaps even more important to a relationship than how you deal with arguments is how you both deal with stress. As you can probably guess, a good night’s sleep makes this part of your relationship easier, too.

Sleep serves as a peaceful calm amidst the busyness of our waking lives, giving our bodies and minds the chance to power down and refresh before the next day. When you don’t sleep well, you lose this helpful refresh, and it becomes harder to manage worries and responsibilities in a healthy way.

The problem is that sleeplessness leads to an increase in your stress hormones. The higher your stress level is, the harder it is for your body to shut down at night for sleep, which of course increases stress levels the next day, and so on. This vicious cycle is like being caught in a spinning hamster wheel, where you’re constantly worrying without catching a break to reorganize things.  

It’s not hard to imagine how this could be a problem for your relationship. Relationships, especially long-term ones, already require real effort to keep strong and healthy, without adding compounding stress to the mixture. Let your bedroom be a calm sanctuary for you and your partner at the end of the day, a place where the two of you can decompress, make plans for the next day, and then just relax. Sleep will take care of the rest.

Well-rested and ready for what’s ahead

The Official Reverie Guide to Happy Relationships is pretty short and easy to remember: Sleep well. No, this won’t necessarily help you read each other’s minds or navigate get-togethers with in-laws, but what sleep does well is make sure that the two of you have what you need for the journey ahead—patience, confidence, and a clear mind.