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The Daily Need

Do not operate this marriage while drowsy

When married women have trouble falling asleep at night, it makes for a tough next day on the homestead, according to a recent study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Whether because of insomnia or other delays getting to dreamland, neither the husband nor the wife are as happy the next day if she sleeps poorly.

Sleep studies usually look at individual sleep patterns, but this one looked at the interaction of couples from both sides. Some of the results were surprising: a hard day didn’t affect that night’s sleep as much as a bad night’s sleep affected what happened the next day. The quality of the wife’s sleep had more effect on the marriage than the husband’s.

“These results highlight the importance of considering the interpersonal consequences of sleep and sleep loss,” said Wendy Troxel, Ph.D., a principal investigator of the study and assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The study was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Researchers used a wristwatch-like device called an actigraph to see how long it took for each person to fall asleep, how restful their sleep was and how long. The 32 married couples also kept e-diaries on how they felt about marital communications for 10 days. There were four positive ratings, like feeling supported or valued, and four negative ones, like feeling criticized or ignored.

Although each spouse vented on separate computers, their feelings were similar. The most negative ratings from both husbands and wives came after nights when wives had trouble falling asleep.

What the study didn’t determine was why the women had trouble falling asleep. Too much on their minds? Kids who kept calling? That earth-shaking snore coming from the other side of the bed? Or maybe, just plain insomnia.

Other studies by the same group suggest that a stable sleep partner and a happy marriage also predicted better sleep. So it’s hard to say which came first: the happy marriage or the good sleep. But, for marriages, a woman’s sleep probably counts for more than just beauty.

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