Spouses and other romantic partners often complain about feeling unappreciated, and research from the University of California Berkeley suggests poor sleep may play a hidden role.
A study looking into how sleep habits impact gratitude found that sleep deprivation can leave couples “too tired to say thanks” and can make a partner feel taken for granted.
“Poor sleep may make us more selfish as we prioritize our own needs over our partner’s,” says Amie Gordon, a UC Berkeley psychologist and lead investigator of the study. She presented her findings Jan. 19 at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in New Orleans.
The results shed new light on the emotional interdependence of sleep partners, offering compelling evidence that a bad night’s sleep leaves people less attuned to their partner’s moods and sensitivities. For many couples, nighttime can turn into a battleground over loud snoring, sheet-tugging or one partner tapping on a laptop while the other tosses and turns.
“You may have slept like a baby, but if your partner didn’t, you’ll probably both end up grouchy,” Gordon says.
More than 60 couples, ranging in age from 18 to 56, participated in Gordon’s research. In one experiment, volunteers kept a diary of their sleep patterns and how a good or bad night’s rest affected their appreciation of their significant other.
In another experiment, they were videotaped engaged in problem-solving tasks. Those who had slept badly the night before showed less appreciation for their partner. Overall, the results showed poor sleepers had a harder time counting their blessings and valuing their partners.