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Better Sleep, Better Marriage

A recent study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology suggests that how much married couples sleep plays a crucial role in how they handle routine spats. It may also influence a partner’s risk for stress-related inflammation associated with cardiovascular disease.

Scientists recruited 43 heterosexual couples with an average age of 38.2 who had been married an average of 11 1/2 years and reported no chronic health conditions. During visits, participants provided blood samples and reported how many hours they’d slept the two prior nights. Half slept fewer than the recommended seven hours for maintaining health.

Couples then discussed hot-button topics — such as dealing with in-laws — and gave blood samples again.

When both partners were sleep deprived, inflammatory responses increased overall: Levels of incendiary markers rose 6 percent for each hour of sleep lost.

Sleeplessness also affected conflict resolution. When both spouses reported insufficient sleep, they behaved more negatively. Partners reporting more than seven hours of sleep still argued, but the tone was more positive. One well-rested partner even helped mitigate hostile exchanges.

While the results don’t offer solutions for conflict, they suggest that the next time you’ve got fighting words for your partner, it might be wise to sleep on them.

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