Suffering from insomnia can have a negative effect on your physical and emotional well-being. Do you find that you often have trouble getting a good night's sleep? A recent study found that your partner might possibly be contributing to your sleep issues.
Researchers presented information on what they found regarding romantic relationships and their impact on sleep health at the annual meeting for The Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, and the Sleep Research Society joint venture. Although the results haven't been published in any peer-reviewed medical journals just yet, there were very interesting findings discovered that can possibly help further our understanding of how a significant other could potentially be making your insomnia worse.
Looking for ways to kick insomnia to the curb to get some good night zzz's? We put together this guide to help you determine if your partner could unknowingly be contributing to your insomnia as well as learn what you can do to help sleep-proof your relationship.
What is Insomnia and What Causes It?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which a person has trouble falling and/or staying asleep. It can be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term) and can come and go.
Insomnia can be caused by a variety of life and health factors.
Causes of insomnia include:
Stress- big life events, like a job loss or change, the death of a loved one, divorce, moving, etc
Sleep environment- noise, light, or temperature
Changes to one's sleep schedule from situations like jet lag, a new shift at work, etc
Your genes- Research has found that a tendency for insomnia can be hereditary.
Mental health- depression, and anxiety
Medications- especially those used for colds, allergies, depression, high blood pressure, and asthma.
Pain or discomfort
Caffeine, tobacco, alcohol use, illegal drugs.
Hyperthyroidism and other endocrine problems
Other sleep disorders- sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome
Alzheimer's disease and different types of dementia
PMS and menopause
How Could Your Partner Be Contributing to Your Insomnia?
Around 66% of adults sleep with a partner. So, while insomnia is usually studied as an individual condition, it is safe to say that your partner could very well be contributing to your difficulties with sleeping.
In the above study, researchers examined the relationship between insomniacs and their bedmates. To do this, they studied 14 women and 17 men whose partners also participated in a separate clinical trial for insomnia. So, what did they find? Most participants stated they often tried to make accommodations for their loved one's insomnia. This included things like adjusting their own sleep schedules, work schedules, or leisure activities to help their partner sleep better. Those with insomnia whose partners made accommodations for their sleep disorder felt more appreciated and more satisfied in their relationships than those who didn't make adjustments. However, those who attempted to assist their loved ones with their insomnia reported experiencing more anxiety than those who didn't.
The study also found that nearly 74% of partners encouraged their insomniac partners to try going to bed earlier or sleep in later, even though sleep experts typically recommend against this type of behavior for people with insomnia. Partners also tended to suggest other potentially bad habits to their insomniac partners in an effort to help them such as taking naps, watching TV to fall asleep, using excessive amounts of caffeine, and taking it easy during the day.
How Can You Sleep-Proof Your Relationship?
Ok, so perhaps relying on partners to offer suggestions of how to get a better night's sleep isn’t the best approach to counteracting insomnia in relationships.
Your personal sleep should not only be a priority to help optimize your health and well-being, it can also lead to a healthier, happier relationship.
So, what are some things you can do to better sleep-proof your relationship?
Separate Your Bed/Bedroom
Did you know that bed-sharing is actually a modern concept? During the Industrial Revolution, people started to share a bed due to a lack of living space. Society has contributed to our thinking that we must share a bed or even a room with the person we love. However, it can potentially make it more difficult for the both of you to fall asleep and stay asleep, and can be contributing to your insomnia. Exploring the option to sleep in your own bed or room might be an idea to consider if your partner snores or engages in other disruptive habits that may disturb your sleep.
Invest in a bigger bed
If separate bedrooms or beds aren't an option, a larger bed could help. The standard double bed is 4ft 6in, while a single bed is 2ft 6in, meaning that a double bed offers nine inches less sleeping space per adult than that of a child’s bed. It might be time to upgrade to a queen or king!
Separate Your Bedtimes
As lovely as it may sound to doze off peacefully with your partner at the same time, it’s unfortunately not always the most realistic. Going to bed separately from your partner could potentially significantly help improve your sleep patterns. Whether you go to bed before or after your loved one, going on your own schedule could prevent you from facing another sleepless night and the frustration of lying in bed next to your partner, unable to nod off.
Discuss Sleep Preferences and Improving Sleep Habits with Your Partner
Hopefully, you can talk to your partner about anything. Sleep should be no different. Communicate with one another about how much sleep you would both like and work together to figure out ways in which you can help each other achieve that. Your partner may need to be more understanding for a while to help you overcome your insomnia.
Make Your Room Your Sanctuary
While it is of course normal to do a variety of things in our bedrooms other than sleeping and engaging in intimacy, it may not always be the best idea to do waking activities in the same space that is designed for night time activities as it can encourage or worsen insomnia. Therefore, consider turning your bedroom into a relaxing sanctuary optimized for restful and healthy sleep. This means that there should be nothing in your room that is not related to helping you fall or stay asleep. Consider making your bedroom more peaceful by:
Clearing out any clutter, including kid's items, laundry, etc.
Investing in quality sheets, pillows, and a comfortable mattress.
Making sure your bedroom has plenty of airflow, and the temperature is suitable for optimal sleep.
Opting for essential oils and/or a white noise machine
Keep Technology Out of Your Room
Transforming your bedroom into a space that better caters to your sleep means that technology should be kept out of your room as much as possible, as well. Whether it's your laptop, smartphone, or TV, digital technology emits certain light that can disturb your natural circadian rhythms, making it harder to fall asleep. Of course technological devices can be a huge distraction too and are overly stimulating, sending your body and brain signals that you should stay up. Using technology in your bedroom, even including watching TV is still considered a 'daytime' activity that won’t help promote good sleep, so try to keep technology in your sleep sanctuary to a minimum.
Speak to Your Healthcare Provider About Sleep Aids
Although occasional difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep can sometimes be normal, if your insomnia becomes an ongoing problem that is out of our control, you may need further intervention from a licensed medical professional. In this case, your healthcare provider may be able to prescribe you medications for the treatment of insomnia. Keep in mind that these types of medications should only be taken right before bedtime, and you should never attempt to drive or do any other strenuous other activities after taking them.
Some medications that your doctor may prescribe you to help treat your sleep disorder are:
Over-the-counter medications: There is no proof that any over-the-counter drug will help insomnia. Most of these sleeping pills are antihistamines that can help you become sleepy to fall asleep faster, but can often leave you feeling drowsy or "hung-over" the next day.
Always speak to your physician and pharmacist before starting any new over-the-counter or prescription medication.
While more research on how partners can affect each other’s sleep patterns and contribute to each other’s insomnia is needed to understand their full impact, there are certain things you can do in your relationship to help you both enjoy more restful sleep. Like any other issues you may face in your relationship, tackling the problem together and cooperatively with open communication, understanding and patience can help you work together effectively to fix the issues creating your difficulties with sleep, as well as better optimize your sleep for both of you.
If you are considering going the medication route to ease your insomnia and difficulties with sleeping, always first consult with your healthcare provider to help you determine if a certain over-the-counter medication or prescription drug could be right for you. CareCard, a discount card for prescriptions, is passionate about helping make your prescription payments more affordable, saving members up to 85% on prescription drugs and medications. Learn how CareCard can help make your medication payments more manageable.