Whenever someone tells you that you woke up on the wrong side of the bed, it's easy to get annoyed at them for pointing out your bad mood. Especially if your partner says you look tired or asks if you got enough sleep, because it likely means they're trying to let you subtly know you're being cranky. It's no secret that parents are among the most sleep-deprived, either. There are some moms and dads who even have strategies for how to parent on no sleep.
But it turns out that lack of sleep combined with arguments with your spouse could be seriously hazardous to your long-term health, researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center have found, and it's far more than just doing damage to your marriage.
In order to conduct their study, the researchers took blood samples from couples before and after an argument. Their findings indicated that couples who fought after not getting enough sleep the night before had higher levels of inflammation than normal.
"We tested their blood for common inflammation markers known as interleukin 6 and TNF alpha," lead researcher Stephanie Wilson said in a press release. "We found that when both factors came into play, a loss of sleep followed by conflict, there was about a 10 percent increase in inflammation."
Although losing just one night of sleep isn't likely to cause you much harm, the reality is that increased levels of inflammation over time have been associated with numerous more serious medical problems, including heart disease, osteoporosis, Type 2 diabetes and even Alzheimer's disease. The study points out a serious link between a couple's fighting habits in combination with lack of sleep, and pointed to how that may be affecting your overall health.
"What we worry about in a study like this is having even a relatively modest change in inflammation, but persistent over time," Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, director of the Institute of Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, said in the statement. "If this is a pattern, and if couples don’t find ways to effectively address their differences, having continuously elevated levels of inflammation could put them at a higher risk for a wide range of diseases."
However, there is a silver lining: The study also found that couples who were able to resolve their conflicts calmly and effectively actually had lower levels of inflammation, and if one partner got good sleep, then conflicts had less of an impact overall because they neutralized the disagreement. The threshold? "Couples were more hostile to each other if they both had less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep," Wilson said.
Next time you and your spouse are fighting nonstop, you might want to take a look at your sleep habits. If one or both of you aren't get enough shut-eye, you may need to get some new color-changing lightbulbs, set an earlier bedtime and take a hint from Samuel L. Jackson and just "Go the F**k to Sleep" to avoid the short-term and long-term adverse effects on your relationship and your health.