How Sleep Affects your Relationships


May 3, 2023 3 MIN READ


How Sleep Affects your Relationships

It’s no secret that a good night’s sleep can lead to a healthy body, but did you know it can also lead to healthy relationships? Studies have shown that the way the brain reacts to situations is greatly affected by the rest the brain got the night before.

Sleep Affecting Our Relationships

Emotional Regulation

There’s a reason toddlers throw tantrums when they miss their naps or coffee mugs are made with quotes like “Don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee” written on them. This is because no one is in a good mood if they’re tired. Running on low sleep means the brain is running on low energy. Its reaction times are going to be decreased and its ability to handle situations is going to be stunted.

A study published in Volume 17, Issue 20 of Current Biology took a close look at the link between sleep deprivation and our brain’s ability to regulate emotions. Using brain scans of individuals who had experienced a lack of sleep versus individuals who were well-rested, scientists were able to collect data that shows “an amplified, hyper-limbic response by the human amygdala to negative emotional stimuli under conditions of sleep deprivation.” This response makes it more difficult for the brain to properly receive and interpret stimuli, leading to overreactions and unregulated emotions.

Whether it’s a lack of sleep leading to mental health issues like depression and anxiety or lack of sleep just making someone’s temper shorter or making someone overly emotional, a person’s emotions when sleep-deprived are out of whack. This is just asking for trouble when a relationship is involved as patience will be low and emotions will be high. Suddenly, the fact that someone forgot to take the garbage out is enough for a fight when usually it would just lead to an exasperated comment or even a gentle reminder. Or a teasing comment that would usually earn a laugh or a playful eye-roll might instead end in fighting or tears.


The previously stated study as well as other studies have also found that lack of sleep makes it more difficult for the brain to register other people’s emotions properly. This can lead to a lack of empathy when a sleep-deprived individual is interacting with another person. Since the brain isn’t working enough to properly handle the person’s thoughts and feelings, there’s obviously no room for it to worry about other people as well. This means that a sleep-deprived person will be much quicker to judgment and annoyance when faced with another individual’s problems as opposed to feeling empathetic. Some people might not even be able to register that the person they’re interacting with is experiencing certain emotions due to their lack of cognitive abilities.

With this issue, it’s easy to see how a relationship can suffer. When a sleep-deprived person’s significant other comes home from work after a terrible day, they are less likely to be sympathetic and comforting toward their partner. They may snap at their partner or just ignore their distress, too exhausted to deal with it. This can lead to the partner feeling even more upset. They might pick a fight with their significant other, ask why they’re acting like their feelings don’t matter, or maybe just shut down and not discuss it, letting that feeling fester inside of themselves, doing long-term damage to the relationship.

Relationships Affecting Our Sleep

Anyone who has had a fight with someone they care about can probably attest to how hard it is to get some rest after. Your mind spins with everything that was said, everything that could have been said, and what will happen next with the relationship. You might be concerned with the possibility of breaking up, or maybe you’re lying in bed thinking about how you want to break up with your partner but don’t know how to go about it. Maybe you’re lying in bed next to your partner after a fight and the room is tense and you can’t relax.

There’s a reason people give the advice that you shouldn’t go to bed angry – and it’s not just for the health of the relationship. A relationship that is struggling can easily lead to a poor night’s sleep. Even once you fall asleep, your negative thoughts are going to be spinning in your mind. This causes your sleep cycle to be disrupted, as experts have linked negative thoughts to issues with REM sleep.

Of course, relationship issues leading to poor sleep will inevitably lead to more relationship issues. And those relationship issues will then lead to poor sleep yet again. It’s a vicious cycle that can easily end in tears and broken relationships.

So, what can you do to fix it?

Tackle the sleep problem and the rest will fall into line.

If you’re experiencing sleep deprivation – or your partner is and your relationship is suffering the consequences – you should book a consultation with sleep experts. The sooner you get the sleep issues under control, the sooner your relationship can return to a safe and happy track.