No one likes to fight with their spouses and science has proven that it does more than just wreck your mood. According to a study in the Psychoneuroendocrinology journal, spousal fights can cause raised inflammation levels- which is known to be a factor that might contribute to diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other such chronic conditions.
It is known that people who are severely sleep deprived or have sleep disorders have higher levels of inflammation in their bodies. The Ohio State University wanted to find out the combined effect of sleep deprivation and spousal spats on the inflammation levels of the people and the results were quite surprising.
To conduct the study they got 43 couples to report to their lab for morning blood test. Then they asked the couples to “discuss and try to resolve” issues between them- basically, they asked them to fight and tested their levels again. They found out that the people who did not sleep properly or enough the night before had higher levels of post-argument inflammation.
For each hour of sleep lost, levels of two inflammatory markers rose an average of 6 percent. Stephanie Wilson, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher observed that “This suggests that even a modest loss of sleep in the last night or two could increase your risk for increased inflammation to a stressor.”
It was observed that the partners who had less than 7 hours of sleep in the last two nights had angrier and more hostile fights- this made the inflammation worse. Spouses who resorted to unhealthy tactics in their arguments had about a 10 percent increase in inflammation levels for every hour of sleep lost.
The results of the study are disturbing because both spousal conflict and sleep deprivation are common. Half the people who appeared for the study had less than 7 hours of recommended sleep. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention observes that- around 35 percent of Americans do not adhere to the recommendation.
According to Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research, marital problems, and sleep issues are dependent on each other. Kiecolt-Glaser observed, “If one person is restless, or has chronic problems, that can impact the other’s sleep. If these problems persist over time, you can get this nasty reverberation within the couple.”
The Interesting Observation? When just one partner suffered from lack of sleep, the conversation between the couple was civil. “It seems that the well-rested partner was able to neutralize disagreements and help compensate for the other one,” Wilson said. And if healthy strategies were used by the couples to resolve the conflict then the effect of inflammation due to sleep loss were negated by some margin.
What this study indicates is that people should have the recommended 7 hours of sleep for controlled inflammation levels, especially couples because lack of sleep combined with spousal spats can lead to unhealthy effects in the long term. Communication and sleep is the key to a healthy relationship.