Is Slumber the Secret to a Happy Marriage?

If you and your partner are feeling underappreciated by the other, you may want to take a look at how much shut-eye you get at night. Sleep deprivation can actually diminish your appreciation of your partner, according to research at the University of California at Berkeley and reported in U.S. News and World Report. Since expressing gratitude towards your partner can promote intimacy, a lack of appreciation may have a negative effect on your relationship.

The Effects of Exhaustion

"Poor sleep may make us more selfish as we prioritize our own needs over our partners," said Amie Gordon, a UC Berkeley psychologist and the lead investigator of the study, according to the university's News Center. Gordon studied more than 60 couples to find out how lack of sleep affected subjects' love lives. Study participants recorded their sleep patterns as well as how the quality of a night's sleep affected their appreciation of their partners. Not surprisingly, the day after a poor night of sleep, participants were less appreciative of their partners.

Exhaustion can certainly be a factor when it comes to under-valuing a partner, says Sheri Meyers, PsyD, LMFT, author of Chatting or Cheating: How to Detect Infidelity, Rebuild Love and Affair-Proof Your Relationship. "There is an epidemic of exhaustion going on in our country," Meyers says. "And it's hard to feel connected to your partner when you are exhausted. Your emotions are blunted and you feel too tired to get close."

When tired, an individual tends to place her partner low down on the to-do list as she focuses on the tasks at hand, and "This is a big mistake," according to Carole Lieberman, MD, author of Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them & How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets. "Partners need to put each other on the top of their to-do list to remind themselves to do something special [for each other] every day."

A Healthy Habit of Gratitude

Demonstrating to your partner that you are grateful to him can strengthen your relationship, and it doesn't take as much time as you think it might. Here's how to get started:

  • Every day, do a quick check-in with your partner, making eye contact and giving him your full attention. Hold hands, smile, and really be in the moment with each other, Meyers advises. "This doesn't take a lot of time but it does take three things: attention, appreciation, and affection," she says.
  • Do at least one little thing every day for your partner. It could be as simple as making him coffee in the morning. "Your caring action tells him that you value and appreciate his contribution to your partnership and that you are grateful for him," Meyers says. And the chances are that he will reciprocate and show gratitude to you.
  • Express your gratitude when he does something nice for you. If he picks up the kids, thank him. "The underlying message you are sending to him is that you value him," Meyers says.
  • Stop keeping score, advises John McGrail, PhD, author of The Synthesis Effect: Your Direct Path to Personal Power and Transformation. "There is no need or place for a constant quid pro quo," he says.
  • Make time for intimacy. "Rediscover what you used to love about your partner and let it feel new," McGrail advises.
  • Get enough sleep. If you are having trouble drifting off, try these tips:
    • Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
    • Keep your bedroom quiet, cool, and dark.
    • Avoid heavy, large meals within a couple of hours of bedtime. Instead, take a hot bath and use relaxation techniques before bed—and invite your partner to get involved, too.

Sheri Meyers, PsyD, LMFT, reviewed this article.




"Tired Couples May Take Each Other for Granted." HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report. 21 January 2013. Page accessed 6 July 2013.

"Strategies for Getting Enough Sleep." National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Web. 22 Feb. 2012. Page accessed 6 July 2013.

Anwar, Yasmin. "Poor Sleep Can Leave Romantic Partners Feeling Underappreciated." News Center. University of California Berkeley. Web. 19 Jan. 2013. Page accessed 6 July 2013.