Research has shown that romantic relationships can have a powerful impact on long-term health by reducing—or increasing—each other’s stress and improving—or worsening—each other’s sleep quality and quantity.
University of Minnesota researchers examined how romantic relationship experiences and stressful life events, over time, affect people's sleep quality and quantity. Their findings were recently published in the journal Personal Relationships.
Researchers interviewed 112 participants in the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaption at age 23 and again at age 32 about their current and past romantic relationship experiences, as well as any stressful life events they had experienced in the past year. At age 37, participants completed measures about their sleep quality and quantity (e.g., hours of sleep).
The study showed people who reported better current and past romantic relationship experiences at age 23 experienced fewer stressful life events at age 32, which leads to better sleep quality at age 37. There was no effect for sleep quantity.
“One explanation for these results is that people who have better relationship experiences have other relational skills and stronger social networks that help reduce their exposure to stressful life events. This may improve their ability to cope with stressful events that do occur,” said Chloe Huelznitz, lead researcher and psychology Ph.D. candidate in the College of Liberal Arts. “Facing fewer stressful events then leads to better sleep quality.”
Future research should examine whether interventions that aim to improve individuals’ romantic relationships can also improve their sleep quality by reducing their stress.
This project was supported by a National Institute on Aging grant awarded to Jeffry A. Simpson, which supported the most recent assessments of the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation.
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