Sleeping With Your Spouse Has a Significant Impact on Physical and Mental Health, Study Finds

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Many of us share our bed with our partner. Does sleeping next to another person influence the duration and quality of sleep? Would it have an impact on mental health? This is what scientists from the University of Arizona sought to determine. Their study shows that it is indeed preferable to share a bed with a partner, for several reasons.

Sleep is proven to be extremely important for overall health. ” The regularity, duration, quality and timing of sleep are important to consider in the prevention of heart disease says Patricia Haynes, associate professor of health promotion science at the University of Arizona. From a physical point of view, for example, regular sleep is associated with a smaller waist circumference – waist circumference being a predictor of certain chronic diseases, such as diabetes.

The specialist also explains that good sleep acts a bit like a buffer zone, allowing us to be less vulnerable to the vagaries of daily life (stress, hassle, etc.). Sleep somehow allows us to have a more proactive approach to difficult situations. On the contrary – and everyone has probably experienced it – a bad night generally makes us cranky, more impatient, more irritable and also much less productive. Researchers are trying to identify the factors that improve sleep.

Better quality sleep

So far, few studies have explored the effects of sleeping with one’s spouse on sleep quality. A team of researchers, led by Brandon Fuentes, a researcher in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Arizona, is interested in the question. Their study is based on data collected as part of the SHADES study (Sleep and Health Activity, Diet, Environment, and Socialization) in 1007 adults from southeastern Pennsylvania.

A simple survey determined whether or not study participants slept with another person (or pet), and how often; sleep-related health factors were assessed using specific tools (Epworth sleepiness scale, insomnia severity index and STOP-BANG apnea score). Mental health factors included depression score PHQ9 and anxiety score GAD7.

The study found that sleeping alone or with a partner, family member, or pet can have a significant impact on our sleep health. ” We were very surprised to discover how important this could be says Dr. Michael Grandner, director of the sleep and health research program at the University of Arizona.

It turns out that sleeping with your spouse has real benefits for sleep itself: it reduces the risk of sleep apnea, the severity of insomnia and it improves the quality of sleep in its entirety, note the researchers. In France, sleep apnea affects 4% of the population; this disorder has a major impact on daily life, as it causes daytime sleepiness, reduced alertness and concentration, and memory problems. In the long term, sleep apnea increases mortality from cardiovascular causes.

Sleeping together reduces the risk of stress and depression

Study results show that people who share a bed with their partner most nights fall asleep faster, sleep longer and are, therefore, less tired than people who usually sleep alone . Conversely, people who sleep alone are more prone to insomnia, drowsiness, fatigue and have an increased risk of sleep apnea.

But that’s not all: sleeping with your partner is also associated with lower scores for depression, anxiety and stress. People who sleep together also show greater satisfaction with life and social relationships. People who sleep alone showed higher depression scores.

Note that these benefits only seem valid if the bed is shared with the life partner. Indeed, people who reported sleeping with their child most nights reported more severe insomnia, and had a greater risk of sleep apnea and poorer sleep control. Sleeping with children was also associated with greater stress. Similarly, participants who reported sleeping with other family members had a greater risk of sleep apnea.

Healthy sleep is increasingly recognized as an important aspect of health, along with diet and physical activity. Dr. Grandner recommends at least 7 hours of quality sleep each night; but this is only an average, some need more or less hours to feel really rested (note that the holiday period, during which we generally have no time constraints, is a good opportunity determine their own ideal sleep duration).

Source: B. Fuentes et al., Sleep

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