"It's a cyclical process that can get under the skin of couples and put them into negative trajectories when it comes to their mental health and well-being," Troxel said. "Sleep problems need to be clinically addressed and perhaps marriage therapy started if the relationship is in trouble."
Dr. Clete A. Kushida, director of the Center for Human Sleep Research at Stanford University, said that the study is unique for linking the inability to sleep to how couples interact the next day.
"Focusing on the impact of poor sleep in terms of positive or negative marital interactions the next day is an interesting spin on the data," Kushida said.
This adds to an awareness of the interpersonal consequences and emotional distress that can result from sleeplessness, he said.
"When a physician validates a sleeping complaint, it's important to bring the spouse in to find out how their partner's lack of sleep affects them as a person, influences their mood or impacts their relationship," Kushida said.
Previous studies by Troxel found the stable presence of a husband or partner predicted better sleep quality in women, and wives who were happy in their marriages reported fewer sleep disturbances. Data from the current research is now being analyzed to determine the precise types of marital behavior and interpersonal consequences that occurred after a night of bad sleep.
Overall, the new study found stronger evidence linking sleep to the next day's marital interactions rather than the reverse direction, Troxel added.
"Intuitively, it makes sense that you don't function at your best when you're sleep-deprived, but there's shockingly little data on how this affects marital relationships," Troxel said.
The study wa
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