Couples Sleep In Sync

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Love it or hate it, sharing a bed with someone is the norm for most adults in a relationship, but how well we sleep together can have a profound effect on our mood, our relationships and the rest of our lives. A new study presented at a recent SLEEP conference suggests that sleeping couples sleep better together when the woman is more satisfied.

It has previously been reported that divorced and single people experience more sleep disturbances and generally poorer quality sleep than couples, but it seems that the quality of your relationship might also influence how well you sleep. Research presented at SLEEP 2014, the 28th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, suggests that how well you sleep with your partner may be a reflection of the quality of your relationship. According to lead author Dr Heather Gunn from the University of Pittsburgh, “the sleep of married couples is more in sync on a minute-by-minute basis than the sleep of random individuals”, suggesting that our sleep patterns are influenced not just by where and when we sleep, but with also with whom we sleep.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburg looked at the sleeping patterns of 46 couples when they shared a bed, and asked them to complete a relationship assessment. Across the 10-day study, the authors monitored the sleep-wake cycles of the couples. Overall synchrony in the sleep-wake cycles of couples tended to be high – a couple sleeping in the same bed together are in sync in terms of sleep or wakefulness around 75% of the time. This percentage was even higher for couples in which the wife reported higher marital satisfaction.

Previous research has shown that across 367 participants, women sharing a bed with their partner had better sleep quality in terms of duration, continuity and a measure called architecture, which … This effect was consistent across cultures, with their sample including Caucasian, African American and Chinese participants. The stability of the relationship was also important; sleep quality was improved when sharing a bed with a stable, long-term partner, but recent changes in the relationship reduced sleep quality. Interestingly, this is not a one-way street, not only does relationship stability improve sleep quality, but poor sleep leads to negative interactions in the relationship, an effect that is more common for sleep-deprived women than men.

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