File this one in the “I didn’t know that” drawer of relationships: the way in which you shift from consciousness (waking) to unconsciousness (sleeping) and vice versa, has a big impact on the health of your relationship.

Hmmm.  Surprising, right?

It’s true.  WHEN you sleep and wake, and the extent to which those times match your partner’s, can affect your relationship for better or worse.

For example, let’s say you’re a morning person.  You wake up regularly at 5 am.  Your partner is a night owl.  She doesn’t go to sleep until 1 am and wakes up at 8. 

She tries to keep the TV down and be quiet when she enters the bedroom each night.  You also have to tippy toe around in the morning, so you don’t wake her.

These practical parts of rising and falling can cause issues and resentment, particularly when one, or both, consistently interrupts the other’s sleep.

Poor sleep affects our emotions, moods, ability to regulate emotions, propensity towards conflict, problem-solving skills and communication skills.

And when those things go awry, who are we most likely to take them out on?

Our partner.

Sleep affects our social interactions profoundly.

But there’s more.

Like relationships in general, sleeping and waking habits are tied to our childhood.  Good sleepers tended to have regular sleep times as kids and enjoyed sufficient amounts each night.  Bad sleepers, tended to have less consistency in sleep routines as children.

In addition, if your parents helped you transition to sleep (reading you stories, lying with you until you fell asleep), your easy transition to sleep continued seamlessly into adulthood.

It turns out that waking alone in the morning or waking in the middle of the night without your partner, also has an impact. 

When you live with a partner, you become accustomed to having her there next to you. 

When she’s not?

It’s unsettling.

Sleep expert, Dr. Wendy Troxel did an interesting study in 2010, which had the same couples sleep apart and together.  When sleeping alone, each slept longer and enjoyed a better-quality of sleep.  But when they were asked their opinion afterward of which way provided the better sleep, they said sleeping together.

Troxel theorized that, for both men and women, the need to feel secure at night, outweighs any sleep disturbances that may occur.

And that’s the takeaway here.

Sleeping together provides a stabilizing sense of security for both people but if you’re going to do it, syncing your clocks is important.  It will lead to less conflict.

Sleep represents about a third of your time with your partner and it’s a critical part of your existence together. If it’s out of balance, it’s time to start paying attention to this part of your life together.

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