Wednesday, December 7, 2022

The correlation between relationship and sleep

“Some years ago, I was stuck on a crosstown bus in New York City during rush hour. Traffic was barely moving. The bus was filled with cold, tired people who were deeply irritated with one another, with the world itself. Two men barked at each other about a shove that might or might not have been intentional. A pregnant woman got on, and nobody offered her a seat. Rage was in the air; no mercy would be found here.

But as the bus approached Seventh Avenue, the driver got on the intercom. ‘Folks,’ he said, ‘I know you have had a rough day and you are frustrated. I can’t do anything about the weather or traffic, but here is what I can do. As each one of you gets off the bus, I will reach out my hand to you. As you walk by, drop your troubles into the palm of my hand, okay? Don’t take your problems home to your families tonight, just leave them with me. My route goes right by the Hudson River, and when I drive by there later, I will open the window and throw your troubles in the water.’

It was as if a spell had lifted. Everyone burst out laughing. Faces gleamed with surprised delight. People who had been pretending for the past hour not to notice each other’s existence were suddenly grinning at each other like, is this guy serious?

Oh, he was serious.

At the next stop, just as promised, the driver reached out his hand, palm up, and waited. One by one, all the exiting commuters placed their hand just above his and mimed the gesture of dropping something into his palm. Some people laughed as they did this, some teared up but everyone did it. The driver repeated the same lovely ritual at the next stop, and the next, all the way to the river.”

We live in a hard world! Sometimes it is extra difficult to be a human being. 

This extract of a true story (source: Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook wall) has a profound lesson on how relationships of any kind can either bring rest to your life or steal your peace. A strong, committed relationship is pure food for the soul and body and definitely affects every aspect of life including sleep. Not getting enough sleep or having constant poor sleep habits does affect your immunity system in the long run and can lead to a range of health problems such as poor heart health, stomach problems, poor mental health and increase your risk of accident or injury. Sleep is a recharge for your body, without it your body goes into low power or survival mode. How well you sleep at night is dependent on many aspects; work worries, family responsibilities and health concerns.
Being a popular topic among researchers, we can safely say that sleeping next to someone can help you sleep better. A range of psychological and evolutionary ingredients like — the need for solid social relationships, 

the need to feel safe and sleeping next to someone you share a strong bond with; mother-child, father–child, siblings, owner-pet, does impact your EQ and even results in better sleep. Thats why its safe to say that how well you sleep is often linked to your relationship status and quality of your relationship. 


Of all the relationship types, research has proven that romantic relationships reign supreme in affecting the quality of your sleep. The quality of a person’s romantic relationship and the life stress are two key points that are related to the quality and quantity of sleep. If you were to seek medical consultation for troubled sleep or issues of this sort, chances are you will be sent home with a list of recommended lifestyle changes like improving your sleeping habits, melatonin or even psychological remedies like therapy for insomnia. However, these solutions don’t take your relationship status and quality of your relationship into consideration, which they should as it is a large contributing factor. Medical professionals should refer to your relationship status as they chalk up a plan to help you get a better night’s sleep because unhealthy relationships are directly proportional to unhealthy bodies.


Stable, Romantic Relationships and Sleep 


Casual Partners and Sleeping Patterns

Sleep is a shared behaviour in many romantic relationships and both men and women get affected by their relationships, it is one of the main critrea of long-term good health. Getting along well with your sleeping partner is imperative to get a good night of sleep. This is amplified when you’re sleeping next to someone that you have a strong bond with, as opposed to someone that you’re just in a casual relationship with. Research shows that people who live with or share a bed with a romantic partner, are more likely to fall asleep much faster than people who have casual or varied partners. It can take casual or occasional bed mates over ten minutes longer to fall asleep than people who live with or share a bed with a stable partner. Ten minutes might not sound like a long time but compared to four to eight minutes which is the normal time it takes to fall asleep, it does seem like forever and be the difference between insomnia and healthy sleepers. If you’re laying in bed tossing and turning, ten minutes feels like a lifetime.


Stable, Romantic Relationships and Sleep — 

Being in a healthy loving relationship, regardless of the living situation, has its perks. Higher post-sex emotional gratification, frequent orgasms and AMAZING sleep is one of the many perks as well. It seems that it isn’t so much marriage/partnership that brings about better quality of sleep as it is a happy union between two individuals who have a mutual bond of trust and companionship. Individuals who are in strong and healthy relationships and have a close bond with their partners tend to have higher levels of self confidence, lower stress levels, greater sense of well-being and in most cases a sense of financial security. All of these factors contribute to the quality of sleep you have. 

We feel safer from predators when sleeping in an environment we perceive to be “safe and secure’,” is the meaning of EVOLUTIONARY ADAPTATION

Being in a stable, ongoing relationship regardless of marital status go hand in hand with feelings of physical and emotional security, which in turn, definitely reduces stress and improves sleep. 


Casual Partners and Sleeping Patterns

An unhappy marriage or relationship is a sinking ship and naturally no one falls asleep when you are drowning. People who are in casual or new relationships tend to be more physiological aroused (racing hearts, faster breathing, increased body temperature, sweating), which is a contributing factor to sleep issues. New relationships that are still in the beginning stages or even casual, noncommittal relationships can create more excitement and even some apprehension and uneasiness when it comes to cohabitation or sharing a bed with a new partner. The status of their relationship or just an uncomfortable feeling of being in a new and unfamiliar environment can keep you up and hamper your sleep. 

Toxic relationships do not only hurt psychologically and emotionally, but also hurt physically. A toxic or unhealthy relationship can exist with married couples, dating couples, and even with people who have decoupled. Those who don’t sleep well, don’t feel well! The immune system rebuilds itself while you sleep and can become compromised with lack of sleep, making a person more vulnerable to disease. 

Along with increased dopamine, other hormones levels like cortisol and oxytocin are elevated during sex. These hormones create an extremely elevated mood, making it more difficult to fall asleep. It’s like trying to fall asleep after taking a thunderous amount of energizers, futile. The physiological arousal of being in a new and unfamiliar relationship can invoke feelings of anxiety, worry or even excitement which affect your sleep patterns as well. Chances of you not being in your own bed are high and being in an unfamiliar setting definitely makes it harder to fall asleep. 


NOTE: Stereotypically, women tend to experience more of physiological arousal before bed than men. So when we break this down by gender, womens sleeping patterns are more likely to be affected by her relationship status than men by his relationship status. Men fall asleep just as quickly when they have a casual partner compared with a stable, long term or even live-in partner. 


So, Can Your Relationship Status Affect How Well You Sleep?

My money is on the type of your relationship, 

A positive interaction with your partner just before its ‘lights out’ can do wonders for your sleep. Stress levels are low, insecurities are minimal and cupid is happy. Loved-up people with a steady partner tend to fall asleep faster than those who are single or dating a casual partner. It’s not all bad news for all you single folk because the amount of sleep and quality of sleep people get overnight isn’t related to relationship status but the quality of relationship. So don’t be afraid to sleep like a single baby. Sleep and staying healthy coexist, both as important for each other. Don’t let your past, present or future dictate how much or how well you sleep. 

Regardless of your relationship status — 

Good sleep is essential for good living. “all the way to the river.”

Vinita Alvares Fernandes
Vinita Alvares Fernandes is an Economics graduate, a writer and a Trinity College certified public speaker and communicator

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