Relationship problems can keep us awake at night. But new research from UC Berkeley suggests that sleepless nights also can worsen lovers' fights.
UC Berkeley psychologists Amie Gordon and Serena Chen have found that people are much more likely to lash out at their romantic partners over relationship tensions after a bad night's sleep.
"Couples who fight more are less happy and less healthy," said Gordon, a doctoral student in psychology and lead author of the study published online in the journal, Social Psychological and Personality Science.
"Our research helps illuminate one factor that leads couples to engage in unnecessary and harmful conflict by showing that couples experience more frequent and severe conflicts after sleepless nights," she added.
While previous studies indicate that poor sleep has a negative impact on romantic relationships, these new findings shed more light on how bad sleep compromises couples' ability to avoid and manage conflict, researchers said.
"For the first time, to our knowledge, we can see the process of how the nature, degree, and resolution of conflict are negatively impacted by poor sleep," said Chen, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley.
Researchers collected data on the sleep habits of more than 100 couples who had been together, on average, for nearly two years. They gauged participants for depression, anxiety and other stressors in order to focus solely on the link between the couples' sleep quality and relationship conflicts.
In one experiment, 78 young adults in romantic relationships provided daily reports over a two-week period about their sleep quality and relationship stresses. Overall, participants reported more discord with their partners on the days following a bad night's sleep.