There’s a Strong Link Between Sleep Quality and Relationship Satisfaction: Here’s What That Means

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It’s natural to feel more on edge and outright grumpy when you lack quality sleep, but when this spills over into your relationship, it can spell disaster. A new study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that when couples miss out on a good night’s rest, especially over time, feelings about their relationship are more pessimistic (1). Plus, they are prone to feel more angry and less grateful toward their significant other.

“Lack of sleep diminishes our resources for handling the stresses of daily life, and this means things that we would typically get over quickly affect us at a deeper level,” says Angela Amias, LCSW, Clinical Director of the Institute for Trauma-Informed Relationships, Founder of Alchemy of Love, and Cohost of the Alchemy of Connection Podcast. 

Since sleep quality is an issue for about 20 percent of the U.S. population, and one in three adults or more get less than the recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep, relationship satisfaction is in jeopardy for many couples. Romantic bonds are an essential source of wellbeing, and when they are not going well, they can lead to poor mental health and a less happy life.

Lack of Sleep Affects Mood, Negativity, and Gratefulness

Amias explains that when you’re sleep-deprived, you essentially have thinner skin for potential stressors, annoyances, and the day-to-day issues that can arise between couples. A lack of sleep also increases feelings of scarcity since a basic need is unmet. “Our bodies are worn out, and we’re not getting enough of something critical, which is sleep — it’s harder to feel grateful in this circumstance,” she says.

Previous research shows that poor sleep is associated with feeling less optimistic about relationship quality and increases the likelihood of intense negative emotions, especially anger. It’s no surprise that feeling angry is also linked to worse relationship outcomes. In the study, researchers correctly hypothesized that poorer sleep quality would cause couples to feel their relationship was less ideal and simultaneously experience more anger. The researchers also found that feeling angry was the culprit for being less satisfied in the relationship.

Anger and Negative Moods Spill Over Into Relationship Interactions

“Living alongside another person involves a certain level of minor daily irritations, but when we’re well-rested, we have more mental space to pause and decide how we want to respond,” explains Amias. However, when sleep-deprived, it’s harder to let the little things roll off your back, and instead, you’re likely to be more reactive. 

Amias explains that in relationships, this means minor irritations are more likely to escalate into bigger issues. “Without enough sleep, it’s difficult to be patient, and people are more prone to take things personally, which leads to unnecessary conflict and resentment toward the other person,” she says.

Improve Your Sleep to Increase Your Relationship Satisfaction

Sleep is foundational to quality of life, including physical and mental health, emotional wellbeing, and relationships. Without proper rest, you are at a higher risk of anxiety, depression, pain, poor self-control, and lower levels of physical activity — all of which can impact your ability to show up in your relationship in a healthy way.

 “Sleep is the body’s natural way to restore its resources and allow us to respond to life’s circumstances,” says Amias. “When we lack sleep, life feels less satisfying overall, and then it becomes easy to point the finger at our partner or the relationship as the cause for our dissatisfaction or frustration.” This study highlights the need to prioritize sleep to boost your overall wellbeing and improve your relationship. 

Recognize the Problem and Face It Together

Understanding the role lack of sleep plays can help people see tensions in their relationship in a new light. “When you’re aware that sleep deprivation can affect your interactions, it’s a little easier to remember to pause and reflect before reacting to your partner,” says Amias. Here are some more of her tips:

  • Pause to consider whether you are overreacting or if getting more sleep might help you see things differently. 
  • Recognize that a temporary external factor like sleep deprivation is something you’re weathering together.
  • Discuss the impact of poor sleep together. This can provide a valuable moment of shared empathy and connection, as well as an opportunity to recommit to navigating the situation together. 
  • Connect through a challenging time by facing the problem together. This can create a sense that the other person “gets you,” which builds resiliency and strengthens relationships overall.

Periods of life when getting enough sleep isn’t the best time to reflect on how the relationship is going overall. “It’s important not to take every thought we have at face value; so much of how we see the world and our relationships depends on our mood in the moment,” says Anias.

Being aware of the influence that a lack of sleep has can also help people consider other external factors that are influencing their mood and thoughts about their relationship, according to Anias. These are things couples can learn to work on together. “It’s encouraging to remember that living through difficult times together can also improve the relationship quality over the long haul,” says Anias.

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  • 1. Audigier, A., Glass, S., Slotter, E. B., & Pantesco, E. (2023). Tired, angry, and unhappy with us: Poor sleep quality predicts increased anger and worsened perceptions of relationship quality. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 0(0).

  • Amias, Angela. Author interview. October 2024.

Rachel MacPherson

Rachel MacPherson

Rachel MacPherson, BA, is a CPT, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Certified Exercise Nutrition Specialist, Certified Pre/Post-Partum Fitness Trainer, and Pain-Free Performance Specialist. She's passionate about providing readers with straightforward, actionable tips to make living an active, vibrant, fulfilling life easier. When she's not writing, you can find her lifting heavy things, reading, exploring outdoors, or watching the newest iteration of the Star Wars Universe. She lives with her family and pets in beautiful Nova Scotia, Canada.

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