Get Better Sleep and You’ll Like Your Relationship More

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Photo: Lauri Rotko

Relationships are complex. Some people say that what you really need is emotional fluency; others, that you should really be watching porn together. But maybe if you want to feel good about your beloved, all you need is to sleep better. Considering that something like 30 percent of American adults get less than six hours of sleep a night, it wouldn’t hurt.

This is the takeaway from a new study in the Journal of Family Psychology. Florida State University researchers Heather M. Maranges and James K. McNulty recruited 68 newlywed heterosexual couples from northern Ohio, 90 percent of whom were white. Husbands had an average age of 24.9, and wives had an average age of 24. After a three-hour laboratory session, couples were sent them home with seven-days-worth of questionnaires, in which they reported how much sleep they’d had the previous night, their satisfaction in nine different relationship domains (like conflict resolution, affection, dependability, sex, and chores), and their satisfaction in their marriage and their partner overall. As anyone who has tried to make conversation with their partner at breakfast after a long night of drinking would suspect, the researchers found that when people got greater-than-average sleep, there was a strong association with feeling satisfied about their marriage the next day.

These findings resonate with earlier research around how individual well-being drives relational satisfaction, the researchers say — parallel to how depression isn’t helpful to marriage satisfaction, while physical health and life satisfaction do predict marital satisfaction. Maranges and McNulty infer that this probably has to do with the fact that satisfied couples “discount undesirable experiences when forming global evaluations of the relationship,” which takes energy — and, therefore, rest.

While this is a small study, it speaks to how much the assessments of interpersonal things like relationships depend on the person doing the assessment: On a day when you feel like crap, you’re not going to like much of anything, relationships included.