Here’s How Relationships Can Affect Your Sleep In The Long-Term, According To Experts

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By Julia Guerra

Not to freak you out or anything, but the choices you make today really do have an impact on your future, even in ways you wouldn’t expect. Life is funny that way; sometimes two completely different aspects of life can collide like colors in a messy drawing, and you’re stuck trying to figure out the bigger picture. Take your love life, for example. Did you know your romantic relationships can affect your sleep? I’m not necessarily referring to that can’t-eat, can’t-sleep phase where everything’s coming up roses and you and your partner can’t get enough of each other, either. According to new research, negative relationship experiences in early adulthood might have some unexpected effects on your sleep quality well into your 30s.

According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, 50 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders, while an additional 20 to 30 million report the occasional night of tossing and turning. If you’re among that 20 to 30 million, but haven’t been able to identify the issue just yet, the results of a new study, published in Personal Relationships, a journal of the International Association For Relationship Research, suggest that negative romantic relationship experiences can impact your sleep quality over the long-term. I know, like the negative relationship itself wasn’t bad enough, right?


The study documented the possible correlation between participants’ romantic relationships, stress, and how both of these elements affect sleep quality over the course of adulthood. Researchers recruited 112 participants from the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation and studied them from the age of 23 years old to 32 years old. In the end, per a ScienceDaily press release, the researchers found that people who reported having positive relationship experiences in their early 20s were less stressed and enjoying quality sleep in their early 30s. “Although a large body of evidence shows that relationships are important for health, we are just beginning to understand how the characteristics of people’s close relationships affect health behaviors, such as sleep,” Chloe Huelsnitz, a PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota and lead author of the study, said in a statement, per the ScienceDaily press release.

Generally speaking, says Dr. Tammy Nelson, a sex and relationship expert and licensed psychotherapist, one of the most common emotions that can affect your sleep patterns is anxiety, and as I’m sure you know from experience, no matter how good or bad your relationship is, it can sometimes give you a little bit of stress.

“Being anxious can keep us up at night, prevent sleep, and wake us up once we are asleep,” because it raises blood pressure, increases heart rate, quickens your pulse, and tenses up your muscles, Nelson tells Elite Daily over email. “These are all reactions that are in direct opposition to the relaxation that needs to happen when we are asleep.”

But even after you and a partner eventually decide to part ways, if you’re still dealing with pent-up feelings of stress from the relationship, Natalie Dautovich, an environmental scholar for the National Sleep Foundation, says you can still be affected. “We are physically most vulnerable when we are sleeping, so sleep is most possible when we feel safe and secure,” Dautovich tells Elite Daily.


If you’re reading all of this and thinking “well, that’s pretty unfair,” you aren’t wrong. But the thing is, you still have control over your sleep health, and there are ways to ensure that, no matter what happens in terms of your love life, you’re still doing everything you can to get your rest.

Of course, if you are currently in a relationship, that doesn’t just automatically mean your sleep health, in the short- or long-term, is doomed. In fact, a physical connection with a loved one, such as a hug, kiss, or even sex, can calm your nervous system, therefore decreasing stress and anxiety, making it easier to fall and stay asleep, Nelson explains. However, at the same time, it’s important to remember that having your own bedtime routine of some kind, made up of rituals (taking a warm bath, meditating, journaling, diffusing essential oils, etc.) that soothe you without the help of a partner, she adds, is just as key.

Having an SO around can also benefit your sleep health in some slightly more unexpected ways. For instance, they can be there to help hold you accountable when you’re trying to cut back on using your phone in bed, or stick to an earlier bedtime. “A benefit of having a sleeping partner is that they often are the first to notice sleep difficulties (e.g., snoring related to sleep apnea),” Dautovich says, so the two of you can both provide support and promote healthy sleep behaviors for one another. It’s certainly worth the try, right? Clearly the sleep of your future self depends on it.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia | Patient Advice | US News

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By Michael O. Schroeder

Many, many people have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Research generally suggests that around a third of Americans have insomnia at any given time, and about 1 in 10 have chronic insomnia, lasting three months or longer.

Not getting adequate rest can affect mood (while depression can also contribute to insomnia), undermine motivation, increase irritability and make it difficult to just get through the day. “For those who take care of small children or have a lot of family and work responsibilities to balance,” the National Sleep Foundation notes, “insomnia can make these tasks feel even more overwhelming when you are tired.”

Often people try over-the-counter sleep aids or nothing at all – just thinking they have to live with it – rather than seeking help from a professional.

It’s common for patients who see Dr. Rafael Pelayo to have been struggling with insomnia for years. It’s “not unusual for me to see someone with decades of poor sleep,” says the sleep specialist and clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine. But even those who’ve had chronic insomnia for years can still get better when the insomnia is addressed correctly, he says.

And although the treatment isn’t new, there’s growing recognition of a tailored therapeutic approach used to change a person’s thinking and behavior that has lasting benefits for the majority who undergo it: cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. Most who undergo four to eight sessions of CBT-I experience a significant reduction in their symptoms – namely the time required to fall asleep, the amount of time spent awake or both – notes Michael Perlis, director of the behavioral sleep medicine program in the department of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania.

While experts note that sleep medication, prescribed in combination with CBT-I or alone, is another option, CBT-I’s “durable results” – generally continuing after a person stops the therapy – make it an optimal approach. “It is recommended as the first line treatment,” Perlis says.

It’s not just mental health professionals advocating for the treatment either, but the medical establishment. The American College of Physicians led the way in guidelines published in 2016ACP recommends that all adult patients receive cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) as the initial treatment for chronic insomnia disorder,” the medical society asserted.

Perlis explains that CBT-I has four components: sleep restriction, stimulus control, sleep hygiene and cognitive therapy. Often it’s counterintuitive, too, like with sleep restriction. One might think that if you can’t sleep you should stay in bed for longer. But actually experts say it’s important to match your sleep opportunity, or how long you’re in bed, with how long you’re able to sleep, and then gradually work on increasing sleep time. “It doesn’t aim to restrict actual sleep time but rather to initially restrict the time spent in bed,” Stanford Health Care’s website explains, regarding the sleep restriction component of CBT-I. “Subsequent steps consist of gradually increasing the time spent in bed.”

While some people may feel they’re familiar with certain concepts and components of CBT-I, like sleep hygiene (being mindful of how factors like substance use, such as caffeine and alcohol consumption, can affect sleep), implementing it correctly tends to be more complex and involved. Experts say that’s why it’s key to see a professional experienced in CBT-I for effective treatment. “Those that try to do CBT-I to themselves are likely to not be successful,” Perlis says. “But worse is that they will believe that they’ve been there, done that, and so the likelihood of seeking out professionally administered CBT-I goes way down.”

One significant limitation with CBT-I, however, is access. “Finding a therapist is not easy,” Perlis says. “CBT-I is not yet available in every state or every city.” However, there are some directories – he recommends a couple through Perelman School of Medicine at Pennsylvania University and the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine, respectively – that can be used to find therapists who do CBT-I.

Pelayo points out that for those who aren’t able to see a professional who does CBT-I in their area, there are online CBT-I programs that allow a person to engage in the therapy from home virtually. “I’m OK with somebody doing it online if they want to – if they live far away,” Pelayo says. “And if they got better, I’m happy for them, of course. But if they don’t get better, if they’ve done the online thing, then we actually want them to have a face-to-face.”

He says patients typically pay cash for online CBT-I.

Insurance coverage of in-person cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia varies. So it’s important to check in advance to determine that. As the therapy is more widely used, and given the support for its effectiveness, clinicians are hopeful insurance coverage of CBT-I will improve, but it’s not universal today.

Pelayo says some individuals, like those with profound autism or schizophrenia, aren’t able to participate in CBT-I. Others, he says, either prefer not to undergo therapy, or aren’t able or don’t want to make the time commitment.

Certainly, CBT-I has advantages – notably the lasting benefits, after a person has stopped therapy; that differs from medication that provides benefit while on it. But experts say, first and foremost, it’s key that those with chronic insomnia generally seek help to get a better idea of what’s behind it and explore treatment options.

In some cases, it may be a medical or mental health issue that’s causing sleep problems or making things worse, and cognitive therapy may still be useful (like with depression). But having a fuller picture, is critical. For example, often thyroid disease can contribute to sleep woes and is overlooked, Pelayo says. Or a person may have another disorder like sleep apnea, along with insomnia, that needs to be addressed as well, he says.

None of that will be rectified through an online search in your pajamas (though you might find a sleep specialist that way).

“I tell all my patients that if they don’t wake up feeling refreshed, something is wrong,” Pelayo says. When sleep problems persist, experts say, instead of trying to put them out of your waking mind – seek help to get them addressed.

Insomnia Series: How Did You Sleep? NPR Wants Your Slumber Stories

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Meagan Keane

Getting a good night’s rest is easier said than done. NPR’s Science Desk is reporting on the science of sleep, and we want to hear from you.

Ask us your questions about winding down, dealing with insomnia and attempts to hack sleep. Share your stories and best tips for getting those precious hours of sleep each night.

Please fill out our form or follow this link to respond. Part of this project involves putting voices on air, so we’d love it if you could also send us a voice memo. You can do that in the form, or email a voice memo to, with “Sleeping Well” in the subject line.

Your response may be used in an upcoming story, on air or on Thanks!

Insomnia Series: 8 Weird Facts About Sleep Science Learned In 2019 Alone

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By JR Thorpe

Maybe it’s because 2018 was a hell of a year and we all want to spend most of 2019 in sweet, sweet slumber, but there was a lot of research published in January this year about sleep. Like, a lot of research. These new findings about sleep covered a lot of ground, from the neural patterns of the sleeping brain to the genetics of early risers and the tie between sleep and health — and it’s changing the way we think about rest. If you’ve always been curious about how sleep shapes our lives, this crop of research shows that it’s hugely influential in unprecedented ways.

Sleep involves many moving parts. There are the hormonal signals issued by your brain that indicate when you should fall asleep or wake up; the circadian rhythms of each cell in your body, which dictate your sleep-wake cycle over a 24-hour period; the four separate stages of sleep, including REM or rapid eye movement sleep, which occur multiple times over the course of a night’s slumber; and other factors, including genetics, stress and environment, that influence how your sleep actually progresses. It’s possible to examine sleep from many different angles — and, as these studies show, science is still learning a lot of mind-blowing things about our bodies and minds when we drop off to sleep every night. Here are eight brand-new facts about sleep.

1There’s A Single Gene Behind Our Need To Sleep When Sick


Many of us experience an increased need for sleep when we’re sick, which makes sense; avoiding over-exertion while the body fights off infection or illness seems logical. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found a single gene behind the urge to sleep while sick in fruit flies. They published their findings in Science, and it’s a big deal; the gene itself, which they called nemuri (the Japanese word for sleep), is one of the most tangible bits of concrete proof that sleep and the immune system are biologically connected.

When the nemuri gene was removed from the fruit flies, they stopped feeling the need to sleep when ill — but when it acted normally, the fruit flies slept, and survived being sick in great numbers. If the same thing applies in humans, nemuri is what makes us sleep when we’re sick — and keeps us alive while our immune system fights off threats.

2If You Have Sleep Apnea, You Struggle To Recall Your Memories

Sleep apnea, the condition where breathing stops temporarily during sleep, is pretty common; the National Sleep Association has estimated that around 18 million American adults experience it. A new study revealed that having sleep apnea has an unexpected affect on the brain: it impacts autobiographical memory. The research, published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, focused onobstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most common type of the condition, where breathing stops because airways become too narrow for air to pass through. And researchers found that people with OSA had difficulty recalling personal memories.

The people with OSA over-generalized their childhood memories, and while they remembered incidents and important events, were much less likely than people without OSA to remember details, like names or dates. The worse their memories, the more likely they were to have symptoms of depression. Good autobiographical memory is important for our mental health, and it seems that sleep apnea, and its impact on long-term memories, can seriously compromise mood.

3You *Can* Actually Learn Foreign Vocabulary In Your Sleep


The idea of learning in your sleep has been around for ages, but new research in January showed that it’s more than a fable. It won’t exactly mean you wake up fluent, though. The study, by scientists at the University of Bern, found that learning new vocab in your sleep can depend on when it’s played to you.

In a deep sleep state, brain cells go through slow waves; they’re active for a brief time, then lull into inactivity. The Bern scientists played pairs of words — one actual German word, one nonsense word — to German-speaking people at various stages of sleep. If the pairs were repeated numerous times during an “up” state, when the brain was active, the people were more likely to match the words into pairs when they were awake. It’s a sign that the brain can sort and try and understand new words even while we’re asleep. Don’t rely on it instead of your Duolingo, though.

4We Still “Hear” During Some Parts Of Our Sleep Cycle

According to research published in Nature in January, sleeping people aren’t always as dead to the world as they appear. It turns out that, when we’re asleep, we still listen to the world around us with a small portion of our brains, keeping track of noises that might be relevant. “Sleepers enter a ‘standby mode’ in which they continue tracking relevant signals, finely balancing the need to stay inward for memory consolidation with the ability to rapidly awake when necessary,” explained the researchers.

They tested this by looking at the electrical brain signals of sleeping people while surrounded by various kinds of noises. When they weren’t in deep sleep, their brains ‘spiked’ whenever they heard noises that carried meaning, like familiar voices, while ignoring other noises. When they entered properly deep, non-dreaming sleep, though, the effects vanished. If you’re just dropping off to sleep or waking up up and think you’re ‘hearing’ what’s happening around you, you’re not wrong; your brain is still listening, to make sure you can wake up and deal with a threat if necessary.

5Losing Sleep Due To Stress Changes The Cells In Your Brain


REM sleep is the period of sleep where we dream, and a January study in PNASreveals that stress directly impacts how much REM sleep we have. According to the research in mice, mild daily stress increases the mice’s amount of REM sleep before it impacts any other sleep stage. Abnormalities in REM sleep are closely tied to depression and mood disorders, so stress might be affecting mood via our sleep. That wasn’t the end of the story, though.

The researchers also found that when stress impacted REM sleep, the brain also physically changed its structure, particularly in the hippocampus. Various cells died, while others were grown — and that’s important, because the hippocampus is a big part of our response to stress and how we deal with it. It seems that in mice, increased REM sleep in response to stress also makes the brain change its shape, to deal with the stress it might encounter while it’s awake.

6Sleep Deprivation Increases Your Risk Of Alzheimer’s And Heart Issues

New science is constantly appearing about the impacts of sleep deprivation, and two new studies in January added to that picture. One, from the Washington School of Medicine, found that sleep deprivation in both mice and people increases the amount of a particular protein, tau, which is found in clumps in the brain of people with Alzheimer’s. The less sleep you get, the more your brain accumulates this protein that can make it vulnerable to long-term issues like Alzheimer’s.

The other study, from the American College of Cardiology, focussed on another area of human health: the heart. They tracked the sleep of over 3,000 Spanish adults and found that those who slept under six hours a night regularly were up to 27 percent more likely to have plaque build-up inside their arteries than those who got an average of eight or nine hours. Plaque build-up narrows the arteries, and is associated with cardiovascular issues and heart attacks.

7Your Neurons Do Different Things In Different Sleep Stages


What happens in your brain when you sleep? Quite a lot, as it turns out. A study published in Nature found that when we sleep, our neurons fire in many different ways, differing according to our sleep stage and where in the brain they’re located. During REM sleep, the hippocampus neurons don’t fire very much, while those in the frontal cortex show a lot of activity. In non-REM sleep, meanwhile, neural firing – the amount of electrical activity — evened out in both areas, and the communication between neurons slowed down.

What does this mean? Well, understanding brain activity during sleep is a big deal, because our brains do a lot of work while we snooze. Sleep is crucial for the consolidation of our memories, cleans toxic substances out of our brains, and helps cells refresh themselves for the day ahead. It turns out that the neural cells in our brains are doing more complicated work than we thought — and that could help us understand how mechanisms like memory and learning during sleep actually work.

8There Are 351 Bits Of Genetics Associated With Being A Morning Person

Enjoy waking up at the crack of dawn? You’re an early bird — and research indicates that the tendency to wake and sleep early is largely determined by genetics. Research published in January gave us more evidence for that fact, by expanding the amount of genetic loci, or genes in specific locations on chromosomes, associated with early-bird tendencies. And they expanded it a lot — from 24 genetic loci to a whopping 351.

The research, published in Nature Communications, found that these 351 distinct genetic loci are all associated with circadian rhythms that naturally tend towards early-to-bed-early-to-rise sleeping. It was a very big study, using data from 85,760 people, and found that these genetic signals make a significant difference. The subjects with the most early-rise genetic loci woke up 25 minutes earlier, on average, than the people with the fewest loci. If you want to change your early-bird tendencies, this research shows, it might be harder than you think; it could be encoded in your genes.

Sleep is more complicated than it appears. As 2019 goes on, we’ll probably experience more wild and weird revelations about how it works — and may end the year with our minds totally blown. One thing’s universally true, though: sleep is greatand very useful for our health. Get more if you can.