Happy Marriage, Better Sleep

Trouble in a woman’s marriage may actually cause problems in bed, but not of the sexual nature. New research has found that women in happy marriages tend to sleep more soundly than women in unhappy marriages. Women happily married and happy with their spouses have a 10% greater chance of getting a decent night’s sleep compared to women who are unhappy with their husbands.

The study’s lead author, Wendy M. Troxel, a psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh, said that the “million dollar question” they need to answer is does the unhappy marriage lead to poor sleep, or does poor sleep contribute to a bad marriage?

“We have future studies planned, and we need to tease that out,” she said. “If you’re not sleeping, you’re more irritable, have lower frustration and tolerance levels, so it’s possible that could affect the marriage. But we suspect it’s in the other direction,” that the bad marriage is affecting the quality of sleep because you’re trying to sleep next to someone you may be fighting with, and that’s stressful.

Troxel and her colleagues reviewed data on about 2,000 married women who participated in the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN). The women were an average age of 46 years. Just over half were white, 20 percent were black, 9 percent were Hispanic, 9 percent were Chinese, and 11 percent were Japanese.

All of the women reported their sleep quality, the state of their marriage, how often they had difficulty falling asleep, if they stayed asleep, and how early they woke up. Happily married women had less trouble getting to sleep, had fewer sleep complaints, had more restful sleep and were less likely to wake up early or awaken in the middle of the night than women whose marriages were less than ideal.

Even after the researchers adjusted the data to account for other factors known to disturb sleep, the researchers found that happily married women still slept more soundly. And, these findings appeared to hold up across racial lines. The only groups that the findings weren’t statistically significant for were Chinese and Japanese women, but Troxel suspects this may be because there weren’t as many Chinese or Japanese women in the study as white and black women.

Troxel said that if you’re in an unhappy marriage, marriage therapy — or individual therapy if your spouse won’t go to therapy — can be helpful. She also recommended practicing good sleep habits, such as going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time every day.

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