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Relationships

Poor Sleep Places Strain on Relationships

Research shows that sleep disorders often cause relationship issues.

Sleep disorders don’t only impact our physical and mental health but can also be detrimental to our ability to maintain healthy and happy relationships as well. Sleep issues, and their associated challenges, can play a significant role in the breakdown of both romantic and platonic relationships.

Emotional Impact

Sleep disorders generally impact our ability to achieve enough quality rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep). REM sleep is essential to our brain health, as it allows us to process memories, absorb and learn new information, and maintain our emotional well-being. As explained by a 2017 study on the connection between our emotions and sleep, a lack of sleep leads to emotional dysfunction.

In particular, sleep deprivation increases activity in the part of our brain that controls our immediate emotional reaction—the amygdala. When we’re not getting enough quality sleep, the amygdala has to work hard, which causes more intense reactions to stimuli such as difficult situations. This, in turn, impacts the connection the amygdala shares with our prefrontal cortex which regulates our emotions and keeps us from acting on our initial emotional response. The prefrontal cortex overrides our emotions with logic, allowing us to take a step back and assess a situation before reacting. Sleep deprivation disrupts this, leading us to act impulsively.

Because of the effect sleep deprivation has on our brain, the likelihood of arguments increases. It also causes anxiety and depression to worsen, which in turn have their own negative consequences on relationships.

According to a 2014 study, conflict/arguing is one of the prevailing contributors to divorce. By improving sleep quality and quantity, we are able to better navigate the challenges and/or difficult conversations that are inevitable in any relationship.

Intimacy Impact

Sleep deprivation also has an impact on our desire and ability to be intimate. Why? Because sleep deprivation results in low testosterone levels, which then results in a dysfunctional sex drive. In particular, obstructive sleep apnea is the main sleep-disorder agitator for disrupted testosterone in men. One particular study found that nearly one-third of men in the study who had severe sleep apnea also had reduced levels of testosterone.

Of course, women are also impacted. While there is less information on sleep deprivation and testosterone levels in women, a 2017 study sought to find some answers. Researchers found that women are likely to experience sexual dysfunction from poor sleep but in a way unique to their natural testosterone levels, which differ from cisgender men. Women with sleep apnea either have a reduced libido or experience sexual dissatisfaction, depending on their testosterone levels.

Learn more about sleep and libido here.

While improving your sleep won’t fix everything, it is a start. Ready to take control of your sleep? Dr. Dibra and Dr. Smith are trusted specialists in their field. Schedule your consultation today to get their help improving your sleep health—and in return, your relationship(s).