Relationships are hard. We have to compromise, listen, be there for each other, and work together to make it work. Adding a baby to a relationship, although very rewarding and worth every not-so-great moment, can really put a strain on a relationship. It is important to take time for each other to keep the romance going.
But, being a sleep consultant, I see so many couples struggling with their relationship due to lack of sleep. Lack of sleep causes patience to be thin, focus to be few and far between, and thinking rationally to be in short supply. Your lack of sleep makes it impossible for you to react rationally to frustrating situations.
In 2006 researchers from the University of Arizona released a study that showed people who were deprived of sleep over a 55 hour period had…
- An increased tendency to blame others for problems
- Reduced willingness to alleviate a conflict situation by accepting blame
- Increased aggression
- Lower willingness to behave in ways that facilitate effective social interaction
It takes work for a relationship, and throwing all of the above into the mix makes it even harder. Parents have to make countless decisions every day, and for every decision that has to be made, they need to come to some sort of agreement together that it’s the right way to go.
What time should we put him to bed?
What do we do when he starts crying?
Are we going to breastfeed? Are we able to?
Each question presents an opportunity for disagreement, and each question that has an agreed-upon decision may have to be reevaluated if things do not go as planned!
So here you are, faced with all of these decisions, all of which need to be approved by you and your partner, you’re frustrated because things aren’t going smoothly to begin with, and to top it all off, your ability to recognize and respond to each other in a rational, civilized manner has been seriously compromised.
Phew, that is tiring just thinking about that!
On top of that, couples who don’t get enough sleep are less likely to show gratitude towards each other, and significantly more likely to feel unappreciated, according to Amie Gordon, a doctorate candidate in social-personality psychology at UC Berkeley.
And as though that’s not enough, consider the fact that lack of sleep decreases libido, which means you won’t be having sex as often, if at all. Many of my parents tell me that one is sleeping on the couch or next to baby, and when they do finally get that moment, they are just too tired or not in the mood.
Now do not get me wrong, if you are experiencing any of the above, I am not saying your relationship is not headed towards divorce. Most couples make it out of this stage alive! But that does not mean you have to struggle through it like you are.
Being a parent to a little bundle of joy is wonderful, and it’s a period in your life that deserves to be cherished. That’s not so easy to do if you and your partner are constantly fighting towards each other because neither of you are getting enough sleep.
There are so many reasons to make your little one’s sleep a priority when it comes to their well-being, but I’d ask you to take a selfish little detour for a moment and consider what it can mean for you, your partner, and your relationship.
After all, if there’s one gift your kids always appreciate, it’s seeing their parents happy, united, and in love.
So before you try couples therapy, move to separate bedrooms, or even pick a fight about what to have for dinner, commit to one week of focusing on your child’s sleep. Give yourself the rest you deserve, and the rest babies need.
The results, I promise you, are nothing short of amazing, and you too can make it out alive.
Kahn-Greene, E. T., Lipizzi, E. L., Conrad, A. K., Kamimori, G. H., & Killgore, W. (2006). Sleep deprivation adversely affects interpersonal responses to frustration. Personality and Individual Differences, 41(8), 1433-1443. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2006.06.002
Gordon, A. M., & Chen, S. (2014). The Role of Sleep in Interpersonal Conflict: Do Sleepless Nights Mean Worse Fights? Social Psychological and Personality Science, 5(2), 168–175. https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550613488952