Weekly challenge: sleep more to improve your romantic relationship

You know you need to get more sleep if you’re not getting at least seven hours a night, but here’s one more reason: University of California Berkeley researchers studied sleep patterns in 60 couples and found what parents of newborns already know: Adequate sleep is a crucial component for a happy relationship.

The researchers, who presented their research findings at a psychology meeting over the weekend in New Orleans, had the couples keep sleep diaries and then videotaped them while engaging them in problem-solving tasks. Those who had just a few hours of sleep the night before were less likely to appreciate their partner’s help with these tasks. Words like thank you and please were less often spoken during these interactions compared with couples who got an adequate amount of sleep.

Blame it on crankiness from lack of sleep—or perhaps resentment over a partner’s snoring that left them tired the next day—but couples who don’t sleep well are less likely to count their blessings and value their partners.

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“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.

One solution is to make an extra effort to say thank you to your significant other on days when you don’t sleep well, realizing that you’re probably going to be snapping more than usual. Another? Make a point to catch up on sleep the following night.

Not only does sufficient sleep have the potential to improve your relationships, but it will protect your immune system, improve your mood, and lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.