For many couples, disturbed sleep or lack of sleep is a huge issue and the ripples affect the quality of the relationship. Tired people have less energy and interest for each other, are more irritable and fractious, and tired people are more dissatisfied and negative than well-rested individuals.
And while there is much good science and psychology to prove that getting enough quality sleep means we have more energy, are mentally sharper, less reactive and more emotionally resilient, we rarely brag about taking an afternoon nap, or sitting on a park bench for half an hour. We are more likely to complain we’re busy, stressed, or tired. And most of us are, because we’re not getting enough downtime.
If we pay attention, our bodies will tell us when we need to rest. Our circadian rhythms determine when we’re hungry or sleepy, when we need the loo, and when we’re at our sharpest. We feel a whole lot better if we go with these patterns, rather than try to override them. If you feel a mid afternoon slump, rather than countering fatigue with more coffee or a chocolate bar, take a half hour break and go for a walk or lie down if you can – simply closing your eyes for 10 minutes will be refreshing.
If wakeful children frequently disturb your sleep, look for solutions and keep looking until you have found one. If snoring is an issue, do something about it pronto. There are many things that can help, and snoring will comprise the health and wellbeing of both people, so get it sorted, and preferably not by sleeping in separate rooms.
Our brains secrete Melatonin in the evening when its dark and this makes us sleepy, but its production is regulated by exposure to light. Spending long days indoors away from natural light can impact your daytime wakefulness and make your brain sleepy. Then bright lights at night—especially from hours spent in front of the TV or computer screen—can suppress your body’s production of melatonin and make it harder to sleep. Use an app for your computer like f.lux, which automatically adjusts the brightness of the screen according to the time of day; warm at night, and like sunlight during the day. So if you are using a computer in the evenings, this could help.
There are ways to naturally regulate your sleep-wake cycle, boost your body’s production of melatonin, and keep your brain on a healthy schedule. Here is some good information, much of it gleaned from www.helpguide.org.
- Go to bed around the same time, our systems do best with routine
- Wake up at the same time. This happens naturally if you’re getting enough sleep. You shouldn’t need an alarm.
- Relax before bed, avoid stimulating activities and that includes just about everything except having sex or reading fiction.
- Read actual books or use an eReader with a bedside lamp, not a backlit device.
- Sleep in a cool, dark room without any electrical displays. Use an eye mask if you need to (and keep one for travelling).
- Have a comfortable bed . You need enough room to stretch and turn comfortably. If you often wake up with a sore back or an aching neck, invest in a new mattress or a try a different pillow.
- Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex. your brain and body will get a strong signal that it’s time to nod off or be romantic.
- Limit caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine at night. All are stimulants and interfere with the quality of sleep.
- Increase exposure to daylight. Spend time in sunlight, sit close to a window, and if necessary, use a light box simulating daylight in winter months.
- Take a nap to make up for lost sleep, rather than sleeping late, so you pay off sleep debt without disturbing your sleep-wake rhythm.
No matter what your age, sleeping well is essential to your physical health and emotional wellbeing, and so vital to your primary relationship.
True silence is the rest of the mind, and is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment. – William Penn