Relationships can suffer if women have a restless night, but the same is not true for men, a new study has found..
When a woman had trouble dropping off, she and her spouse were more likely to argue the following day. But there was no increase in rows when men lay awake at night.
Wendy Troxel, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said: “We found that wives' sleep problems affect her own and her spouse's marital functioning the next day, and these effects were independent of depressive symptoms.
“Specifically, wives who took longer to fall asleep the night before reported poorer marital functioning the next day, and so did their husbands.”
In previous studies she had found that women sleep better if they enjoy the stable presence of a husband or partner in their bed.
But in new research, presented at a meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Minneapolis this week, Dr Troxel looked at the links between length of sleep and “daily marital interactions”.
She studied 35 healthy married couples, most of whom were in their thirties and who had no history of physical or mental health problems.
Their nocturnal movements were recorded over 10 nights with a device called an actigraph, in order to work out how long it took them to fall asleep (sleep latency) as well as how long overall they slept.
Then the couples were asked to note in diaries how many “positive marital interactions” they enjoyed the following day, when they felt valued or supported by their spouse, and how many negative ones where they were criticised or ignored.
The results showed that the longer it took the women to fall asleep, the more likely that both they and their husbands were to report relationship problems the following day.
However: “Husbands’ sleep did not affect his own or his spouse’s report of next day’s marital interactions.”
The researchers added that the results show that sleep disorders such as insomnia may affect more people than just the individual sufferer.