effects of sleep deprivation on your relationship

How do the effects of sleep deprivation impact your relationship?

What is it about having a horrible night’s sleep that makes everyone else so awful the next day?

It seems that way, doesn’t it? After a night of broken, interrupted, just plain lousy sleep, people for some reason are just contemptible. From the people driving like they’ve been lobotomized, to the people asking you the same question at work that you’ve already answered half a dozen times, to the person standing in front of you asking the Starbucks Barista to describe every item on the menu. Don’t even get me started on that person.

Seriously, is the universe just messing with you? Is there a hidden camera somewhere? At any moment is Ashton Kutcher is going to jump out and say you’ve been punk’d?

Maybe. I’m not saying that’s not a possibility, and let’s be honest, it would be a pretty epic story to say Ashton Kutcher chose you to personally punk. But a more likely explanation is that your lack of sleep is making it impossible for you to react rationally to frustrating situations.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Researchers from the University of Arizona released a study back in 2006, on the effects of sleep deprivation. The study showed people who were deprived of sleep over a 55-hour period had…

  • An increased tendency to blame others for problems
  • Reduced willingness to alleviate a conflict situation by accepting blame
  • Increased aggression
  • Lower willingness to behave in ways that facilitate effective social interaction

I know this might not seem like especially earth-shattering news, but it speaks to a broader point of how the effects of sleep deprivation impacts your relationships.

Angry mom while dad still sleeping

Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Parents

Let’s imagine that you and your partner are the proud parents of a new baby. Your lives are undoubtedly blessed, but let’s not kid each other; a new baby is a monstrous responsibility. New babies require their parents to make, on average, at least one zillion decisions a day. (I’m estimating there, but it’s for sure in the ballpark. Let’s say a zillion-ish.)

And for every decision that has to be made, you and your partner probably need to come to some sort of an agreement that it’s the right way to go.

  • What time should we put Baby to bed?
  • What do we do when Baby starts crying?
  • Where should Baby sleep?
  • Is Mom going to breastfeed? How can Dad support Mom in breastfeeding?
  • Whose turn is it to handle Baby’s latest massive blow out?

Those are all questions that need to be agreed upon and then reevaluated if things aren’t going smoothly. But, these are just a few of an infinite number of choices you’ll make in the first few weeks alone.

And every one of them presents an opportunity for disagreement.

A Recipe for Trouble

Now, you and your partner might have a great method of solving your disputes. You may have already agreed on a lot of these questions before Baby arrived, but as any parent knows, all of those decisions are up for discussion the second things start going off the rails.

So here you are, suffering from the effects of sleep deprivation and faced with all of these decisions. All of which need to be agreed upon by you and your partner. You’re frustrated because things aren’t going smoothly to begin with. To top it all off, your ability to recognize and respond to each other in a rational, civilized manner has been seriously compromised.

Two people forced to debate some of the most important decisions they’re likely to make in their lives, and they’re psychologically primed to blame one another, get angry, and less likely to play fair or accept responsibility.

Sounds like a scene from a horror movie, right?

Yep, sleep deprivation affects your relationship when things aren’t going smoothly. But what about when things are going more smoothly?  Well not great news here because research shows that couples who don’t get enough sleep are less likely to show gratitude towards each other. They are also significantly more likely to feel unappreciated, according to Amie Gordon, a doctorate candidate in social-personality psychology at UC Berkeley. And that is just a recipe for tension and more fighting.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Parents’ Relationships

Many of the parents I’ve worked with have told me their sleep deprivation has seriously threatened their relationship. Of course, tons of couples get through this period in their lives with their partnership intact. So, I’m not trying to suggest that sleep deprivation is going to be the end of your relationship. A baby who isn’t sleeping isn’t necessarily going to result in divorce, but I can say without reservation, it’s certainly not going to help.

Babies are amazing, right? I mean c’mon. What can possibly compare with those first few months when you and your partner stand over the crib together and look down on that precious new life that the two of you created together? It’s one of the most romantic experiences many of us can envision, and it’s a period in your life that deserves to be cherished. That’s not so easy to do if you and your partner are constantly fighting each other on every decision because neither of you are getting enough sleep.

Sleeping family, Happy parents

There are so many reasons to make your little one’s sleep a priority when it comes to their well-being, but I’m going to ask you to take a selfish little detour for a moment. Consider what getting better sleep would mean for you, your partner, and your relationship. After all, if there’s one gift your kids always appreciate, it’s seeing their parents as a loving, happy, and united force in their lives.

So, before you decide to go to couples’ therapy or move to separate bedrooms, and before you even get into one more heated argument over which route to take to daycare, try taking two weeks to commit to getting your little one sleeping through the night. Then see how you and your partner feel once you’re all getting the rest you need.

I promise you, the results are nothing less than amazing.

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