It’s the ultimate healer – for others, the ultimate scourge. It’s the essential component of everyday life, and the seemingly mystical otherworld we enter into at night. It’s our entrance into the world as we know it and our departure. We can never seem to get enough of it, and it threatens to make or break us as our management of the 24-hour system becomes ever more hectic. As an avid night owl, I hate sleep – and yet I covet it. And I also know that it’s the axe which looms over the finely woven cord which ties a relationship together – the cord which emphasizes love, trust, and thoughtfulness, but can be severed in an instant simply because of SLEEP.
As David Feder notes in his article “8 Ways to Improve Your Relationship and Your Life”, one of the key elements to keeping a relationship healthy, whether with yourself or a loved one, is achieving balance. “Schedule” is one of the busy buzzwords which immediately comes to mind, although it can also be interpreted on a more metaphysical level. Yet despite it being a widespread term, people continue to overlook the importance of sleep. It’s the first thing to sacrifice in favour of one more half-hour with your favourite show or extra blog post you’ve got on your mind. But as a nocturnally-inclined individual, my best piece of advice is that balancing your sleep schedule should be one of the top five things you prioritize in a relationship.
This doesn’t mean that you have to wake at dawn and snuggle down at dusk, but by adhering to basic sleep hygiene you can enjoy a better quality of life with your loved one while accommodating your own biological clock. I’ve yet to meet up with folks that manage to be well-rested 100% of the time, but it’s worth striving for nonetheless.
The trouble is that modern day couples, regardless of gender, orientation, and ethnic background, are obliged to participate in a culture where not only do we fail to put healthy sleeping into practice but we significantly mismanage our time surrounding it. UK newspaper The Guardian recently published an article on gadget use in the bedroom, discussing the problems with over-stimulating the brain and failing to take out intuitive “us” time with partners. And this is probably where I, personally, get caught out the most – not so much with the smartphones and netbooks, although I do agree that there is a time and a place for them which does not involve a bed at any time of day/night, but because as a full-blooded night lover and generally anxious person the niggling little stresses and insecurities which seem so invisible during the day creep up after sunset and bear down like a freight train with the speed of a Concorde.
Avoid Conflict While Tired
And this is where many couples go wrong. While it’s true that for the most part, we should feel free to express whatever emotions or concerns are plaguing us during the time of need, setting aside time which enables both partners to focus on the matter at end results in a more thoughtful dialogue without the worry of getting enough sleep before that next shift, as well as clearing away the moods that accompany lack of sleep such as miscommunication and crankiness. Sometimes, it literally is better to sleep on something, allowing the clarity of a fresh morning to provide a new outlook. Sometimes we can’t help snapping while needing that little bit of shut-eye, so it’s better to leave a reasonable amount of time to wind down at the end of the day.
In the Bedroom
Sleeping habits alone can become defining factors in the quality of one’s relationship – one partner snores, the other wakes up too early while one taps away at their keyboard into the early morning hours, one has regular conversations, and so on. Some couples get around this by changing their designated hour of bedtime to an earlier period, giving them the chance to enter a deep enough stage of sleep to become virtually immune to their other half’s night-time habits. While being considerate and accommodating is key, it’s also important to make an effort for quality time together in the bedroom as well. Studies have shown (though have also been contested) that sex is advantageous and leads to better sleep; but there is also something to be said for the closeness of waking up in someone’s arms the next morning (if that really ever happens – usually it’s a matter of fetus vs. starfish sleeping positions) and building intimacy.
It goes without saying that lack of sleep can have detrimental effects on the body, placing pressure on the other partner to not only persevere with their own responsibilities but take over their partner’s tasks and the worry which accompanies it. Good sleep makes us all happy, healthy people, and happy, healthy people mean happy, healthy couples. While it may seem relatively minor at first, eroding sleep habits can result in even more desperate sleep cycles where intervention is required, such as the case with sleeping pills. This is a larger problem where individuals and loved ones need to learn to recognize the signs of Ambien abuse along with other substances and get treatment; however, with a proper diet and lifestyle habits, the use of medication to aid sleep can be avoided entirely.
So whether it is the intimacy, the overall effect on your health, the ability to deal with concerns effectively, sleep plays a vital role and one of these factors alone can strain a relationship if severe enough – all together, they can be detrimental. So start taking sleep seriously with your loved one, and do whatever it takes to ensure that your body is getting the rest it needs so that work and play come naturally.