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Sleepless nights lead to more conflict, less empathy in relationships

Darien, IL – A new study has emerged indicating that those in relationships who consistently experience poor sleep are more likely to engage in conflict with their partners. The proven emotional consequences of sleep disorders only add to the known physical risks – which include increased likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, hypertension or diabetes – and support the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s (AASM) recommendation to obtain diagnosis and treatment from a sleep specialist.

“Far too many people accept sleep deprivation as normal, but we can’t continue to ignore the heavy emotional and physical tolls of sleep illness,” said M. Safwan Badr, MD, president of the AASM. “The emergence of clinical evidence showing the devastating impact of sleep disorders on relationships is yet another reason for sufferers to seek appropriate treatment from a board-certified sleep medicine physician.”

Countless studies have connected sleep illnesses with various physical consequences. This new study, conducted at the University of California, Berkeley, establishes a link between sleep loss and emotional health – specifically the degree of conflict in everyday life. Couples experienced more conflict in their relationships after less restful nights of sleep. Sleep loss also decreased the level of empathetic accuracy – meaning participants were less able to understand or interpret their partners’ feelings.

“When suffering from sleep loss, information processing is impaired, and we’re not as easily able to read and interpret the facial expressions of our partners,” said Badr. “We’re also less likely to be vocal with our feelings. As a result, conflict can arise.”

Previous studies have shown that couples receiving treatment for sleep disorders reported fewer disagreements than couples who were not receiving treatment for sleep disorders.  

Sleep problems affect about 70 million Americans, and a happy, fulfilling relationship can be just one casualty of untreated sleep disorders. Insufficient sleep leads to severe, possibly life-threatening, health risks including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and depression.

To find a local sleep specialist or accredited sleep center, visit www.sleepeducation.com.


About The American Academy of Sleep Medicine

Established in 1975, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) is the leader in setting standards and promoting excellence in sleep medicine. With nearly 10,000 members, the AASM is the largest professional membership society for physicians, scientists and other health care providers dedicated to sleep medicine. For more information, visit www.aasmnet.org.

CONTACT: Katie Blyth, 800-837-7123 or 312-565-3900, kblyth@lcwa.com

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