Is a bad night’s sleep ruining your relationship?

How to cope when you don’t sleep well together Sharing the bed with a duvet hog, seismic snorer or furious fidgeter? If your partner’s sleep habits are impacting on your quality of sleep, you could be at risk of sleep deprivation. And experts now think that lack of sleep isn’t just bad for your health – it can trigger relationship troubles, too.1

More arguments

Yes, unsurprisingly, when you’re tired, you have fewer warm and fuzzy feelings towards your partner.2 A 2013 study by the University of California analysed the sleep diaries of 75 people in relationships and reported that those who slept poorly were more likely to argue the next day.3 The researchers revealed that this was because couples are less able to read each other’s emotions when tired, and this lack of empathy makes rows more likely.4 The study also reported that relationship troubles were less likely to be sorted out if one partner hadn’t slept well.5

Sense of humour failure

Lack of sleep stops us from thinking clearly by impairing what scientists call ‘higher cognition’, or our ability to reason, and particularly those responses that rely on emotional data, such as verbal humour.6 (Could this be the reason you don’t find your partner’s jokes funny after a bad night?)

Low libido

Hormones involved in sexual desire and response are also impacted by poor sleep. A study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2015 found that just one hour extra per night increased the odds of a woman wanting sex the next day by around 15%.7

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How to sleep better ¬together

1. Try wool duvets: Separate duvets can help if you’re sharing with a duvet-hogger, while wool is thought to regulate body temperature better than feathers, down or polyester.8 2. Buy a bigger bed: We each wriggle and turn around 60 – 70 times a night, according to the Sleep Council, so you’re less likely to disturb each other in a king-size bed than in a double.9 3. Sort out the snoring: If this is causing your sleeplessness, talk to your doctor – snoring and waking regularly can be symptoms of sleep apnoea.10
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
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1. Troxel WM, et al. Marital quality and the marital bed: Examining the covariation between relationship quality and sleep. Available from:
2. Psychology Today. ‘Sleep divorce’ is now very common… and it’s saving marriages. Available from:
3. Gordon AM, Chen S. The Role of Sleep in Interpersonal Conflict. Available from:
4. Dr Simon Kyle. Do sleepless nights mean worse fights? Available from:
5. As Source 3
6. Killgore WDS, et al. The effects of caffeine, dextroamphetamine, and modafinil on humor appreciation during sleep deprivation. Available from:
7. Kalmbach DA, et al. The impact of sleep on female sexual response and behavior: a pilot study. Available from:
8. The Telegraph. Why a wool-filled duvet could be the key to a good night’s sleep. Available from:
9.The Sleep Council. Ten Reasons Why You Need a Bigger Bed. Available from:
10. NHS Choices. Overview. Obstructive Sleep Apnoea. Available from:

Sleep Advice