Have you ever gone through spurts when you felt like you and your partner just could not stop arguing? Your arguments would be over really little things and could blow up into days long fights. If the reason for this incessant interpersonal conflict seems unclear, the root of your problem may be the amount of sleep that you're not getting. Read more to find out how sleep deprivation can lead to interpersonal conflict.
The role of sleep deprivation on emotional awareness
When our brains are fully charged after a good night's sleep, we are able to process all of the different things that require our brain's attention. Many processes are functioning at the same time, helping us to take in our environment, understand it, and respond to it.
However, when we are sleep deprived, many of those extracurricular functions go away, and our main focus becomes survival. Where is my food coming from? How can I make it through this day without killing anyone? Anything outside of these two questions is a stretch for our brains to handle.
Our brains, which are responsible for emotion regulation, are too drained to properly manage our emotions. We become moody, grumpy, and irritable; upset over the smallest things. How toddlers act when they are missing their naps is very much how adults act; it's just not developmentally appropriate to throw a tantrum. Some experts think that when we are tired, our amygdala doesn't properly tie emotions to our memories, leading to an overreaction or an inability to read others' emotions.
How sleep deprivation can lead to increased interpersonal conflict
This inability to read others' emotions is exactly why interpersonal conflict may increase when you are sleep deprived. If both you and your partner are sleep deprived, then the effects just double as neither of you are able to process your own emotions, or those of the other individual.
Sleep deprivation makes it difficult to process what your partner is saying in a conflict, and it can be easy to blow them off. Your brain is too tired to work through the process of conflict resolution. This can frustrate them which can prolong the issue which will frustrate you, leading to an endless cycle until you both get enough sleep.
A study found that when one partner had less sleep, that was associated with a lower ratio of positive to negative affect, or emotions. Essentially, that partner had a more negative mood when they were tired. They also had a lower level of empathic accuracy, meaning that they were unable to correctly empathize with the other person. The resolution of their issues happened when both partners received enough sleep.
Ways to manage sleep deprivation while in a relationship
Sleep deprivation is bound to happen, especially if both partners have crazy schedules, kids, or anything else that could be disrupting sleep. If you find yourself, or you and your partner in a space of sleep deprivation in constant conflict, here are a few things you can do to help your relationship:
- Acknowledge that both partners could benefit from sleep and then revisit the conversation when you both are well rested.
- Practice sleep hygiene together so you can both get in the habit of getting good sleep a majority of nights.
- Consider having nights where you sleep alone so you can get higher quality of sleep. Sometimes sleeping with a partner can disrupt our sleep quality, especially if they are on a different schedule, snore, toss and turn, or anything else that is antagonistic to your sleep habits.
- Speak with a sleep professional if you habitually don't get good sleep. Reach out to a sleep specialist today to resolve your sleep issues for a more peaceful relationship.