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When Wives Can't Sleep, Marriage May Suffer
Date:6/13/2011

By John Leighty
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, June 13 (HealthDay News) -- When wives can't fall asleep, that tends to trigger marital tensions the next day, a new study suggests, whereas the sleep issues of husbands barely impact spousal relationships.

Researchers tested the sleep patterns of 35 young and healthy married couples for 10 nights using noninvasive sensors that monitored rest and activity cycles. Wives with sleeping difficulties sparked significantly more negative marital interactions the next day, according to the research, which is to be presented Monday in Minneapolis at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

"The findings suggest a wife's prolonged inability to sleep predicts her own and her husband's marital interactions, which tend to be more negative and less positive," said Wendy Troxel, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the study's lead researcher.

Troxel said the couples, mostly white professionals with an average age of 32, used electronic diaries to give daily assessments on whether their marital interactions were negative, such as being ignored or criticized, or positive, such as being cared for and supported. The results were independent of depressive symptoms.

For wives who had trouble going to sleep, marriage interactions turned substantially more negative than positive for both partners, the study found. In contrast, when husbands slept poorly, there was little difference in how the couples related the next day.

"Women are generally more expressive and tend to drive the emotional climate of a couple's relationship," Troxel explained. Wives who can't sleep are more likely to express stress, be irritable and verbalize their feelings, she said.

"Men are more likely to repress their feelings or not be as aware or tuned into the climate of change taking place," Troxel added.

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