A small but provocative new study, presented at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies today, tells us that when women don’t sleep well, it trickles over into the marriage and causes tension between spouses. When men don’t sleep, the relationship carries on as normal.
The researchers tracked couples for 10 days, recording their sleep at night using an “actigraph” to measure how long it took the participants to fall asleep, how long they slept in total during the night, and how often they woke up.
During the day, the couples were asked how often they had both positive and negative interactions with each other.
The results suggested sleepy wives as the culprit for marital strife:
When the women slept poorly, both partners were more likely to report that they had more negative interactions (like feeling undervalued or ignored) the next day. When men didn’t sleep well, it didn’t seem to affect the quality of the relationship.
The researchers say it could be that women are more expressive and communicative when they’re not feeling well, whereas men on average tend to repress their struggles. The lead researcher says, “Women are more expressive and tend to drive the emotional climate of the couples relationship.”
As I said, the study is small (70 people, 35 couples). In my home (sample size of 2), I have to say this rings true. I miss an hour of sleep and it changes my mood and outlook the next day — unless I’m so busy that I can’t slow down enough to let sleepiness sink in. But my husband can roll with it on six hours of sleep.
Does this seem right to you? We’re all affected by sleep deprivation, but do women express it differently?