Lack of sleep and arguments with your spouse can cause stress-related inflammation, study reveals

A new study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, conducted by the researchers from the Ohio State University Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research indicates that the lack of sleep doesn't just make a person cranky and looking for a fight, it also results in the risk of stress-related inflammation.

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This kind of inflammation is related to higher risk of diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and other diseases.

Stephanie Wilson, lead researcher of this study, stated "We know sleep problems are also linked with inflammation and many of the same chronic illnesses. So we were interested to see how sleep related to inflammation among married couples, and whether one partner's sleep affected the other's inflammation."

The study was performed on 43 couples who had completed their two study visits. Blood samples and the sleep duration of the two previous nights were collected from the couples during each visit. Then researchers asked the couples to try to sort out an issue that triggers conflict in their marriage. Blood samples were collected once again following the discussion.

Wilson stated that people who got fewer hours of sleep during the previous two nights didn't wake up with greater inflammation, but they had a greater inflammatory response to the conflict. This indicates that lack of sleep increased susceptibility to a stressor.

If both partners had slept less than seven hours in the past two nights, the couple was more likely to become hostile. For each hour of sleep lost, the researchers noticed that levels of two known inflammatory markers increased 6%. Couples who used unhealthy strategies in their dispute had an even greater inflammatory response--about a 10% rise with each hour of sleep lost.

According to Wilson, it is worrisome that both marital conflict and lack of sleep are common in daily life. About 50% of the couples involved in the study had slept less than the suggested seven hours in recent nights. That's greater than the existing national average. The CDC reports 35% of Americans sleep less than seven hours each night.

Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, senior author and director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research, stated that part of the concern in a marriage is that sleep patterns often track together. If one person has chronic problems, or is restless, that can influence the other's sleep.

Researchers saw that there was a protective effect if one of the partners resolved dispute in a healthy way, or was well-rested. They tended to neutralize the conflict that might be triggered by the sleep-deprived partner.

Janice Kiecolt-Glaser further added that it's important to find good ways to resolve conflict and treat the relationship -- and get some sleep.

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