“Staying awake until the fight is resolved will lead to exhaustion the following day, which can lead to more resentment. Break the cycle. Go to bed.” – Dr. Kurt Smith
We’ve all heard the old saying: never go to bed angry. This seemed to be useful advice for new couples just starting out on their adventures together. Going to bed angry was seen as letting an issue fester into something bigger than it needed to be. However, new research has found that going to bed angry may not be as detrimental to a relationship as it once was seen to be.
A new study, which has been published in the Official Journal of International Society of Psychoneuroendocrinology, has revealed several reasons why going to bed angry is not only totally fine, but healthier for both you and your partner in the long run. The study states, “Sleep problems can boost inflammation and may jeopardize interpersonal functioning, risks that may be magnified in couples.”
FOUR REASONS WHY IT’S OKAY TO GO TO BED ANGRY
FIGHTING SLEEP DEPRIVATION
The new study published shows that when we fight with our partners on low sleep, our bodies respond with stress-related inflammations, which are heavily linked to one or both partners having a higher risk of things like cardiovascular disease or arthritis. Fighting is stressful, and so is being without sleep. When you put the two together, our bodies can sometimes be over-worked.
Dr. Kurt Smith says, “When we’re tired, our brain doesn’t function at its peak. We can’t have a productive disagreement with a half-functioning brain… Continuing an argument under these conditions will just make the argument worse.”
Also, studies have shown that couples who are less likely to go to bed until an argument is resolved are at higher risk for inflammatory-based diseases, while couples who go to bed angry are able to handle their stress better. Instead of trying to hash out the entire argument before bedtime, studies show that tabling the discussion and getting a good night’s sleep can be better for our minds and bodies.
MAKING SENSE OF THINGS
An argument against going to sleep angry had always been the REM sleep cycle – that’s where you store your memories for the day, and many thought that going to bed angry stored those hostile memories, making it harder to let go. New studies, however, show that this is actually the exact opposite.
Chairman of the board of the National Sleep Foundation and chief of sleep medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dr. Charles Czeisler says, “In deep sleep you store memories and in REM sleep you seem to integrate those memories with other memories that you had previously learned. Insight seems to be an important element of what happens during REM sleep.”
When couples go to bed, regardless of whether or not the argument is complete, the new memories are integrated in with all of your other memories. Your brain knows what to do, and it’ll help you make more sense of both the argument and your partner’s points. You’ll be able to wake up with a new understanding.
CLEAR YOUR MIND
Getting a good night’s sleep is the best way to clear your mind and get a new outlook on what’s going on around you. The recent study by the Official Journal of International Society of Psychoneuroendocrinology states, “When both partners slept less, couples interacted in a more hostile way than when at least one partner slept more.
Therefore, when someone is sleep deprived, the argument can often never end, because one or both partners are unable to see where the other is coming from. If a couple is determined not to go to bed angry, they may find that they don’t go to bed at all. However, couples who put aside an argument for the sake of a good night’s sleep may find that when they wake up, they’re able to see the argument from a whole new perspective. This can make discussing the argument easier and smoother than before.
At 3 in the morning, any solution that a couple comes up with for the end of an argument is most likely to be temporary. After all, they’re both exhausted and want to end the discussion and go to bed. Couples who refuse to table discussions and arguments may find that their solutions fall apart after a few days, or even hours, leading back to the exact same argument. However, couples who decide to go to bed, even if they’re angry, are able to come back to the argument and think of a better, longer lasting solution.
University of Missouri Extension gerontology specialist Jacquelyn Benson states, “Going to sleep and readdressing the problem the next day when our minds are rested is better than staying up until the wee hours of the morning to fight. We’re also less likely to trade escalating provocations back and forth.”
This is because you’re giving your brain time to readjust and also giving yourself time to cool off and come back to the argument with a calmer and clearer head.
Couples who often find themselves arguing late into the night should reevaluate if that solution of never going to bed angry is really working. While it may feel nice to fall asleep without an argument looming over their head, studies show that it’s just not worth it. Our bodies and brains need time to put themselves back together and heal, and sleep is the best way that our bodies know how to do that.
“When we get angry the reasonable parts of our brains—the prefrontal lobes in the front—shut down and then all the action moves to the back where our reptilian brain takes over. We get the fight or flight response, we get tunnel vision. When you’re back into your prefrontal lobes, your blood pressure is down, and the tunnel vision has expanded, then sincerely try and solve the problem,” says Dr. Robert Taibbi.
If an argument has gone on long past your bedtime, the best thing to do is table the discussion and come back after a good night’s sleep. Studies show that your body – and relationship! – will thank you for it.