It’s a more common question than you think – How does sleep influence our relationships? The truth is, it does. Sleep is an essential foundation of mental, emotional and physical health. And when you’re sleeping with someone else, their routines impact you (and vice versa). Sleep quality gets compromised easily, but it eventually comes back to bite you in the ass.
Some people have a greater tolerance for less sleep and rest, but many people don’t realize how a lack of rest or poor sleep quality is actually affecting their mood, and they start to think that something is wrong with them.
Since bad sleep schedules manifest in irritability, inability to react to challenges, overwhelm, exhaustion, stress eating, and poor performance at work, it’s easy to try to deflect and blame those issues on something else. But a lot of the time, it’s just…sleep.
If you suffer with a poor sleep routine, you might even try to be proactive, actively doing everything but adjusting your sleep schedule. You may psychoanalyze yourself into thinking that you’re just not passionate about your work anymore, wonder why you don’t get excited about your hobbies, etc. And you might also begin to catastrophize aspects of your relationship, convincing yourself that it “isn’t right” or that you’re not connecting anymore. It creates a state of mind that isn’t as resourceful or as hopeful as you really want in a relationship.
The exciting news is, you CAN do something about it.
Let’s discuss the challenges to your sleep quality and how you can transform your sleep. You might find that you look at your relationship in a positive new light once you do this!
Common Sleep Challenges
Parenthood Versus Personhood
Are you a parent? If so, tell me if you relate to this. It’s the end of the day and you’ve done it. You have shuffled your child(ren) to school, camp, practice, tutoring, clubs, games or playdates. You did laundry, you fed them, you did the dishes, you checked homework and made sure they brushed their teeth (longer than 15 seconds). All of that is a full time job plus some, and a lot of us also have a full time employee job, and that’s just too much at once. You’re exhausted.
The rational thing would be to go the bleep to bed. Except for the first time in like 14 hours, you can think actual thoughts about something besides your children! Wow!
You want to feel like a person. You want to catch up on your show, watch movies, read a book, or feel connected by scrolling social media. But now it’s 1am and you’re like oh no, I have to wake up in like 5 hours! This is an ongoing cycle and although I can attest to this getting easier as children get older, it’s still relevant no matter how independent your kids become.
If you don’t have kids, this also applies in some ways if you feel like an employee or business owner all day, then you want to reclaim your time in the evenings. No matter what role you play during the day, if you don’t get to fully relax into yourself, you may find yourself desperately trying to win time back at night…making it hard for you to sleep.
A lot of us have habits that we probably know could improve, that are lingering from our single days. These things probably didn’t feel like a big deal in your 20’s and now you’re beginning to pay for them.
Some great examples are eating late at night, drinking alcohol too much or too late, staring at your phone all evening, constant social media scrolling, or staying up watching tv. Some part of you is trying to decompress and feel relaxed, but you’re actually creating conditions for stress and sleeplessness.
Another lingering habit is the coping mechanism of using substances like coffee or energy drinks to wake up and feel energetic. This temporarily works but of course it spikes our blood sugar and energy levels, then causes a crash. Later, it impacts our sleep cycles and makes life more difficult.
People ask about sleeping together a lot – in terms of whether it’s “normal” to sleep in separate bedrooms or whether they should go to bed at the same time. But not enough people ask about why sleeping is important to a relationship, or what to do about it.
Discuss Your Habits
Make commitments to each other around sleep. Discuss your habits and make decisions about what works for you and what doesn’t! Some examples of agreements include not drinking caffeine after 2pm, turning all the overhead lights off by 8pm or not having phones in the bedroom. What are the habits you want to shift or try for the essential wellbeing of your relationship?
(Resource: Sleep Hygiene Toolkit by Huberman Lab)
If you can figure out a way to go to bed together, it’s good for your nervous system. Have you tried turning the lights out at the same time consistently and trying to drift off together? This could be a habit to build if possible, allowing for a reset of your hormonal cycles and a more collaborative sleep schedule.
My wife and I are now “nap people”, but we weren’t always. Now with a kid and busy schedules, I notice a distinctive pattern in how we interact when we sleep well and take a nap, versus how we treat one another when we don’t.
If you can, take naps! Napping gives our whole nervous system a reset and your brain a rest, because it’s accruing a lot of tension and exhaustion, and it’s wired to periodically need a reboot during the day. I’m not talking about long ones, either – even just a 10-20-minute quick rest can totally reshape your interactions that day.
If you’re not a napper you can try a “non-sleep deep rest protocol” or NSDR that is proven to provide some similar benefits to a full on drooling on your pillow nap.
(Resource: Non-Sleep Deep Rest – A Science-Supported Tool for Deep Relaxation, by MadeFor)
Track Your Sleep
There is such a thing as actual sleep disorders, of course, and if you or your partner have them, you should find out! This is great information to have because you’ll be able to get the tools you need to sleep better.
See a sleep specialist or begin tracking your sleep in order to assess your sleep quality! Be sure to use that Sleep Hygiene Toolkit!
Sleep Your Way
In an ideal world, you could sleep in the same bed perfectly. But if you have difficulty doing so, it might be time to consider sleeping separately so that you both get the rest you deserve.
In my opinion, it is more important that everyone sleeps than whether everyone is doing the “right” or “normal” thing according to current norms in society.
Imagine you and your partner at your absolute best. Rested, nourished, patient, kind. Isn’t that exciting?! That feels more important than whether you sleep in the same bed, right?
Let me know how this goes!
Comment to let me know how this guide worked for you, and whether changing your sleep schedule positively impacted your relationship. If you want more ideas on how to improve your connection with your partner, check out my article 15 Elements of a Thriving Relationship.