When it comes to the subject of sleep, I am a fanatic. I'll admit I am biased. I have always needed a lot of sleep — nine to 10 hours! — so it's easy for me to notice the impact of a poor night's sleep; I get short and irritable. Still, it seems people can get used to sleeping with less and start to think it's normal. I hear this kind of thing in my office all the time: "I've never slept well. I do fine on six hours a night. I have too much to do to sleep."
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This study surveyed 100 couples, putting over 70 of them in a sleep lab, and found that many problems arose in their relationships after poor sleep habits, including more negative feelings, more conflict and less ability to manage conflict.
There is a simple explanation for this: our brains require sleep to function well! However, we humans are great at fooling ourselves: we think we are fine when we are actually not as well as we could be. How often do we hear from our partners, "You sure seem grouchy today." And what's our most common response? "What do you mean? I'm fine; what's wrong with you?"
Perception, self-awareness and self-control all are diminished when we have less sleep. These are all critical skills involved in functioning well as a couple. We are more irritable, impatient and stubborn when we are short of sleep, and definitely not as much fun to be around. We take ourselves too seriously and are quicker to find fault with our partners.
Why Don't We Take Sleep Seriously?
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For many people, not getting a lot of sleep is a point of macho pride. They like to show off how little they need, seeing shut-eye as a sign of weakness. I find this pretty interesting, as we don't usually see other biological needs as trivial. Boasting about how little you eat is a sign of a serious medical issue, and you don't hear anyone puffing their chest out about how little they need sex or going to the bathroom. "I only want sex once every other month, or I can go all day without having to use a toilet!" Not too impressive, right? But not needing much sleep is somehow perceived as cool. It's not. Keep Reading...
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