We all feel better, and more ourselves, when we get a solid night’s sleep. But for a lot of us, that fact alone isn’t enough to change our habits. Despite feeling noticeably more focused and alert when we’ve rested well the night before, we still relentlessly do the very things that disrupt our sleep: checking emails right before we shut our eyes, drinking alcohol late at night, and keeping pets in our bedroom while we sleep.
Whether we realize that these specific behaviors impact our sleep or not, most of us can agree that we just don’t prioritize sleep as we know we should.
But a bad night’s sleep – especially on a consistent basis – is nothing to brush aside. The physical effects of sleep loss are very real, including an increased risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and Alzheimer’s. In perhaps less obvious, but similarly impactful ways, sleep also profoundly affects our mental and emotional well-being – and, therefore, our relationships.
You know the feeling: You slept poorly and then get into a senseless argument with your partner the next day. Or you’re unable to brush off a comment from a coworker. Or you unnecessarily dwell on a conversation with a friend, analyzing each word said. A lack of sleep creates suboptimal mental and emotional states that can lead to impaired relationships with the people around us.
Read on for the behavioral side effects of sleep deprivation that impact our relationships.
You’ll react more intensely to situations.
The negative emotional reactions that we experience when we’ve slept poorly begin with the amygdala, the emotional rapid response center of the brain. Lack of sleep causes the amygdala to go into overdrive, which means you will react more intensely to situations than if you had gotten in your eight hours of zzz’s. You’ll also experience more intense anger and an impaired ability to adapt to frustrating circumstances, putting you at risk for an outburst.
You’ll be less able to put the brakes on impulsive behaviors.
Impulsivity control is linked to our prefrontal cortex, which is the center of the brain that handles complex tasks such as decision-making and moderating social behavior. Sleep loss has been connected to an impaired prefrontal cortex; in particular, one study found that sleepiness caused an increase in impulsive behaviors like gambling and Internet addiction. The combination of an impaired amygdala and an impaired prefrontal cortex leads to overall undesirable behaviors. Not good at all for our personal and professional relationships!
You’ll be more stressed.
While sleep-deprived individuals experience heightened levels of stress hormones generally, they also are more likely to make mistakes and be less focused, the implications of which (particularly when on the job) can lead to more stress by nature. All of that added anxiety and pressure can hurt relationships, particularly for couples, as stress is known to lower sex drive.
Sleep loss hurts our own mental and emotional well-being – but it also affects those around us. The good news? Better sleep can help restore mood and keep you grounded and level-headed! Make sure you’re getting the right amount of sleep each night, and you might just see a change in the health of your relationships.
If you still experience irritability and other negative emotional responses after making sleep a priority, you might be dealing with a bigger issue. It’s important to talk with a doctor if you experience persistent anxiety, abnormal behaviors, or depression. These issues could be due to a mental disorder, or they could be due to a physical problem, like sleep apnea or insomnia, which limit proper sleep and therefore put the sufferer at increased risk for mood and behavioral problems. If you think sleep apnea may be the cause, contact Sleep Better Georgia today to learn more about what diagnosis and treatment may look like.