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Is Sleep Deprivation Affecting Your Relationships?

We all know by now that sleep deprivation can take a toll on our mental and even physical health. [1]

But most people probably haven't considered how their sleep affects their family relationships, particularly to those closest to them. Yet research clearly suggests that there is a link between the quality of your sleep and the quality of your close relationships. [2]

This knowledge can be especially powerful for older adults, who may be more relationship-focused than they were in their busier, younger years.

In this post, we'll explore how sleep can affect your close relationships, and offer tips for getting better sleep so you can be more present and fully enjoy those around you (and vice versa) during your waking hours.

The Health Benefits of Good Relationships

In addition to just being enjoyable, spending time and building healthy relationships with family members – including children and grandchildren – can also have health benefits for older adults, such as:

  • Longer life expectancy
  • Healthier lifestyle
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Better mental health
  • Stronger emotional support systems
  • More self-confidence [3]

There is also reason to believe that, for grandparents specifically, spending time with grandchildren can have its own unique health benefits. These include:

  • Reduced risk of depression
  • Helping you stay physically active
  • Enhanced mental alertness
  • Helping to maintain social activity (since taking grandchildren out can encourage you to interact with other adults) [4]

How Sleep Can Impact Grandparent-Grandchild Relationships

While sleep deprivation's effects on your relationship with your partner may be somewhat obvious – after all, who hasn't found themselves being a little short with their partner after a bad night's sleep? – the ways in which sleep can affect older adults' relationships with their grandchildren may be a little more nuanced, and less obvious.

In order to fully understand this, it's important to realize that the primary way in which grandparents relate to their grandchildren is through an emotional bond. And it is precisely in the area of emotions that sleep can have some of its largest, most profound effects. [5] [6]

For example, sleep deprivation can negatively impact your mood, leading to anger, frustration, irritability, and sadness – all of which can obviously act as a hindrance to emotional bonding between grandparent and grandchild. This is even further magnified by the fact that kids are especially sensitive to the moods of the adults around them. [8]

Sleep's Impact on Relationships – Going Beyond Emotions

Even if you were to somehow remain emotionally present in spite of inadequate sleep, the challenges don't end there.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lack of proper sleep can make you physically ill – which, naturally, can strain your relationships with those closest to you as you require more resources, more care, and perhaps even more isolation. [9]

While the main health risks posed by sleep deprivation are currently diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression, more research is being conducted in this area and it is likely that additional illnesses will be linked with poor sleep in the future.

Can Naps Affect Your Relationships?

It's probably no secret that not getting enough sleep leads to napping. But did you know that napping can interfere with your relationships? This is primarily true for older adults, as they tend to enjoy more free time than their children and grandchildren, who are usually on stricter schedules and don't have the "time luxury" of planning their day around a parent or grandparent's nap. [10]

We don't normally think about naps this way, because we tend to think of them as something positive – and, for the most part, they certainly can be. But, for older people prioritizing time spent with children or grandchildren, it is possible for naps to work against those efforts.

Sleep Deprivation Can Also Affect Your Love Life

According to this article, sleep – or lack thereof – can have a profound impact on your relationship with your partner. [11]

As the article states, poor sleep can create more conflicts between couples, increase aggression, and even make us appear less attractive to our mates.

However, there is also an upside: Getting consistent good sleep can increase attraction, help couples flirt with one another more successfully, and be more kind to each other.

How to Get Better Sleep for Stronger Relationships

So, what can you do to make sure you're getting the right amount of sleep for optimal relationships?

The good news is, plenty! Here are a few tips to get you going:

1. Maintain a Regular Sleep-Wake Schedule

Did you know that going to sleep and waking up at the same time every single day can help you get better sleep, more consistently? It's true, according to studies like this one. [12]

2. Limit Screen Time at Night

It can be tempting to spend your pre-sleep hours watching TV, scrolling Facebook, reading on a tablet device, and so on. But if your goal is to get better sleep, experts recommend turning electronic devices off no less than 30 minutes before bedtime. Doing so can minimize your exposure to blue light, helping you fall asleep faster and enjoy more REM sleep. [13] [14] [15]

3. Avoid Drinking Before Bed

Surprisingly, this advice doesn't just apply to caffeinated beverages like coffee – which most people know can keep you up at night – but also to drinks like soda, alcohol, and even water! So be careful what you drink before bedtime. [16]

4. Try Breathing Exercises

Did you know that breathing can be a great way to naturally relax and destress? So it makes sense that doing some breathing exercises before bedtime can be a great way to improve your sleep. You can find a few to get started with here. [17] [18]

5. Consider a Probiotic Supplement.

Recent research suggests that probiotics may be helpful in promoting better sleep. (You can check out our favorite one-a-day, which includes both high quality pre- and probiotics, here.) [19] [20] [21] 

6. Spend Some Time in the Sun

Sunlight doesn't just feel good – it can also help you sleep better. According to experts, just a little bit every morning can help you get a better, easier night's rest. [22]


[1] National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

[2] Social Relationships and Sleep Quality

[3] The Top Ten Benefits Of Spending Time With Family

[4] CNC Health Plan - Spending Time With Your Grandkids

[5] 6 Factors of Grandparent-Grandchild Closeness

[6] Emotion, emotion regulation and sleep: An intimate relationship

[8] Mood and Sleep

[9] Sleep and Chronic Disease

[10] America, It's Time for Your Nap

[11] Is Sleep Deprivation Hurting Your Love Life?

[12] Individual differences in sleep and circadian timing

[13] SCL Health - Stop Using Electronics.

[14] What Is Blue Light And Where Does It Come From?

[15] What Are REM and Non-REM Sleep?

[16] Five drinks to avoid before going to bed

[17] Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response

[18] Best Breathing Exercises for Sleep

[19] Probiotics: What You Need To Know

[20] Probiotics, prebiotics and postbiotics for better sleep quality

[21] For the Biome: Gut-Lung Therapy

[22] Get Morning Light, Sleep Better at Night