Ever wondered why as soon as your baby was born your household became of competition of “who has it worse?” Who’s doing more work? Who’s dealing with the baby more? Who has a reason to be more exhausted? I have yet to meet a couple whose ability to appreciate each other has not been impacted by the birth of a child. Now we know why. It seems we are all freaking exhausted. Sleep deprivation is turning us into ungrateful partners.
A new UC Berkeley study shows that poor sleep may have an impact on how we express gratitude. The study shows that sleep deprivation can leave a spouse “too tired to say thanks.” It seems the absence of that simple gesture is really impacting relationships:
“Poor sleep may make us more selfish as we prioritize our own needs over our partner’s,” said Amie Gordon, a UC Berkeley psychologist and lead investigator of the study, which she conducted with UC Berkeley psychologist Serena Chen. Gordon will present her findings this Saturday (Jan. 19) at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychologists 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.
“You may have slept like a baby, but if your partner didn’t, you’ll probably both end up grouchy,” Gordon said.
At some point in the night, my child still wakes for a bottle. Since we haven’t broken the nighttime bottle habit, he will also need a change of diaper. Some nights I sleep soundly through this and my husband takes care of it – and some nights vice-versa. Apparently we may as well both be getting up though, because the disruption of one partner’s sleep pattern impacts the other, as well.
More than 60 couples, with ages ranging from 18 to 56, participated in each of Gordon’s studies. In one experiment, participants 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.
So the lesson is this – if my husband’s sleep is disturbed and mine is not, I need to remember to say “thanks.” Even if I do
believe I’ve been working harder and deserve need the extra sleep.