Summary: According to researchers, couples who fight following a lack of sleep expressed higher inflammation levels in blood samples.
Researchers find that inflammation markers rise in tired couples who fight.
A lack of sleep doesn’t just leave you cranky and spoiling for a fight. Researchers at The Ohio State University Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research say it also puts you at risk for stress-related inflammation.
This type of inflammation is associated with higher risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis and other diseases.
“We know sleep problems are also linked with inflammation and many of the same chronic illnesses. So we were interested to see how sleep related to inflammation among married couples, and whether one partner’s sleep affected the other’s inflammation,” said Stephanie Wilson, lead researcher on the study.
Results of the study were published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.
The research team recruited 43 couples who completed two study visits. Each time, the couples provided blood samples and said how many hours they had slept the previous two nights. Then researchers had the couples try to resolve a topic that sparks conflict in their marriage. Blood samples were taken again following the discussion.
“We found that people who slept less in the past few nights didn’t wake up with higher inflammation, but they had a greater inflammatory response to the conflict. So that tells us less sleep increased vulnerability to a stressor,” Wilson said.
If both partners got less than seven hours of sleep the previous two nights, the couple was more likely to argue or become hostile. For every hour of sleep lost, the researchers noted that levels of two known inflammatory markers rose 6 percent. Couples who used unhealthy tactics in their disagreement had an even greater inflammatory response–about a 10 percent increase with each hour of less sleep.
“Any increase isn’t good, but a protracted increase that isn’t being addressed is where it can become a problem,” Wilson said. “What’s concerning is both a lack of sleep and marital conflict are common in daily life. About half of our study couples had slept less than the recommended seven hours in recent nights.”
That’s higher than the current national average. The CDC reports 35 percent of Americans get less than seven hours of sleep per night.
“Part of the issue in a marriage is that sleep patterns often track together. If one person is restless, or has chronic problems, that can impact the other’s sleep. If these problems persist over time, you can get this nasty reverberation within the couple,” said Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, senior author and director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.
Researchers were encouraged to see that there was a protective effect if one of the partners was well-rested, or discussed conflict in a healthy way. They tended to neutralize the disagreement that might be stirred by the sleep-deprived partner.
“We would tell people that it’s important to find good ways to process the relationship and resolve conflict — and get some sleep,” Kiecolt-Glaser said.
Source: Penny Smith – Mediasource
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Original Research: Abstract for “Shortened sleep fuels inflammatory responses to marital conflict: Emotion regulation matters” by Stephanie J. Wilson, Lisa M. Jaremka, Christopher P. Fagundes, Rebecca Andridge, Juan Peng, William B. Malarkey, Diane Habash, Martha A. Belury, and Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser in Psychoneuroendocrinology. Published online February 16 2017 doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.02.015
Shortened sleep fuels inflammatory responses to marital conflict: Emotion regulation matters
Sleep problems can boost inflammation and may jeopardize interpersonal functioning, risks that may be magnified in couples. This observational study examined the effects of self-reported recent sleep duration on couples’ inflammation, inflammatory responses to a problem discussion, interpersonal behavior, and use of emotion regulation strategies (emotion expression, cognitive reappraisal) during conflict. People who slept less had higher stimulated interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) production after the marital problem discussion than those who slept more. However, using emotion expression and cognitive reappraisal strategies during conflict protected couples who slept less from inflammatory reactivity. Specifically, people’s short sleep did not relate to inflammatory increases when they expressed their own feelings more or when their partner reappraised or expressed their emotions more. When both partners slept less, couples interacted in a more hostile way than when at least one partner slept more. These data point to the combination of short sleep and marital conflict as a novel path to heightened inflammation, a risk that partners’ emotion regulation strategies may counteract. The study also highlights the role of short sleep in more negative or punishing marital behavior.
“Shortened sleep fuels inflammatory responses to marital conflict: Emotion regulation matters” by Stephanie J. Wilson, Lisa M. Jaremka, Christopher P. Fagundes, Rebecca Andridge, Juan Peng, William B. Malarkey, Diane Habash, Martha A. Belury, and Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser in Psychoneuroendocrinology. Published online February 16 2017 doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.02.015