Even if you really, truly think you mean it when you brazenly text an ex “I’m not losing any sleep over this,” new research suggests that, uh, you may be seriously kidding yourself. A recent study published in Personal Relationships found healthy relationships in your twenties are correlated with better sleep in your thirties. Alternatively, troublesome relationships are correlated with…well, maybe just invest in some lavender oil.
Researchers note that those who had a positive long-term romantic relationship at age 23 were ultimately exposed to less stressful life events by age 32 and also rewarded with heightened sleep quality by middle-adulthood at age 37.
All of this prompts some pretty big questions—namely, what kind of lucky, well-adjusted unicorn has a steady, healthy, positive relationship at age 23? Well, a lot of the findings draw from research conducted on first-time mothers in the mid-’70s below the poverty line who agreed to have their child tracked for relationship effectiveness from birth to mid-adulthood. The kids who stayed onboard through age 37 contributed to the findings on “relationship effectiveness.” Higher scores tended to reflect relationships with, “mutual caring, trust, and emotional closeness; concern for, and sensitivity to, the other’s needs and wishes; sharing of experiences and enjoyment of each other; and faithfulness, loyalty, and honesty.”
So while at age 23, most of my friends were still learning how to cook beyond the confines of a box of Kraft mac and cheese—for themselves, mind you—it does make sense for sleep quality to be connected to the management skills derived from having and being a supportive partner. And the sooner in life you master those skills, the better off you’ll be—both awake and in your dreams.
“People who have other relationship skills, as well as positive relationship experiences, are exposed to fewer stressful life events and perhaps are better able to cope with those stressful life events. Facing fewer stressful events leads to better sleep quality.” — Chloe Huelsnitz, lead study author
“People who have other relationship skills, as well as positive relationship experiences, are exposed to fewer stressful life events and perhaps are better able to cope with those stressful life events,” says lead study author Chloe Huelsnitz. “Facing fewer stressful events leads to better sleep quality.”
So it’s not necessarily like you’re drifting, drifting, drifting, into slumber and all of a sudden, you bolt up screaming, “HE INTRODUCED ME AS HIS FRIEND, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?” Rather, the stressed point here is really more about stress itself, which makes a lot of sense, too.
Stress is a pretty common culprit when it comes to effing up your snooze game. Last year, a survey of more than 2,600 Well+Good readers revealed that 95 percent of respondents struggle with stress and 63 percent said it impacts their sleep. It’s no shocker that the correlation tampers directly with the quality of said sleep. When you’re stressed, your body is in fight-or-flight mode, which can keep you from entering deep REM sleep.
So the main takeaway here? Our current and past relationships can get under our skin and impact our well-being down the line—whether or not we’re even privy to the pervasiveness of it all. And though these specific findings start with 23-year-olds, no matter your age, if your S.O. is a real chore, I’d re-evaluate the relationship. Bedtime may one day depend on it.
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