How skipping this much sleep makes arguing with your partner more dangerous

Could skimping on sleep make arguments with your partner worse?
Could skimping on sleep make arguments with your partner worse?

Even the slightest annoyance can spark an argument when you’re short on sleep. And the physical effects of a fight when you’re zonked can be especially dangerous, research from The Ohio State University Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research suggests.

In the study, researchers recruited 43 couples to come to their lab, where they answered questions on their sleep habits, had blood samples taken and then tried to resolve a conflict with their partner.

Read more: 7sleep products to help you have the best rest ever

When both couples slept less the night before, they tended to behave more negatively during the conflict – say, with more hostility, criticism, contempt, withdrawal or nonverbal issues like glowering or eye-rolling. And for every hour of sleep lost from participants’ norm, their levels of two known markers of inflammation rose by 6% following conflict. That’s important, since the amount of sleep didn’t affect markers of inflammation that morning – it only became significant once the conflict began.

Read more: 3 tips to a better night’s sleep

This suggests that short sleep messes with your body’s response to stress, making your inflammation levels rise in response to an emotionally-wrought situation, the researchers believe. And that can be a health risk: Higher levels of these inflammatory factors have been linked to a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and arthritis, among other conditions, according to a news release.

Read more: Feel great after a bad night of sleep

The good news is, there seemed to be a protective effect if even one partner was well-rested: That tended to be enough to neutralise disagreements started by the sleep-deprived partner, the researchers say. That’s just one reason you should always shoot for at least seven hours of shut-eye a night.

This article was originally published on

Image credit: iStock 

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Show Comments ()
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.