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I wasn't all that intrigued when I saw this headline on a recent news release: First-time parents' daily sleep duration predicts their relationship satisfaction. I mean, really? It took a study to figure out that when two people are being kept awake all night for weeks at a time by a whimpering, wriggling, insatiable newborn they aren't at their joyful, marital best?
But as it turns out, this particular bit of research, presented at the 24th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC, contained a few completely unexpected and eye-opening nuggets of wisdom.
The researchers studied 22 couples after having their first baby. Prior to this study, new parents had typically been asked how much sleep they were getting and then scientists would compare those figures to how happy they claimed to be. But this time, both mom and dad’s sleep was measured objectively through wrist actigraphy, using a device that evaluates rest/movement cycles and circadian rhythm activity. The not surprising part: Objective measurements of sleep more accurately predicted a couples’ relationship satisfaction than self-reported statements (think, “I didn’t sleep a wink last night.”). The interesting twist: Mothers consistently overestimated the baby daddies’ sleep quality while the fathers underestimated their wives’ sleep quality. The women also tended to rate their partners’ relationship satisfaction as lower than it actually was. In other words, he’s as exhausted as you are and happier about it than you think he is. Nice!
A previous study published in the Journal of Family Psychology found that up to 67% of couples report a major drop in happiness and a significant increase in hostility in the first three years after having a baby. Shocking? Not so much. What’s amusing is that when our sisters and friends and neighbors have babies, we rush over with giant pans of lasagna and impossibly soft blankets and towering diaper cakes. Maybe the better gift would be offering to hold the baby — while mom and dad take a nap.
How does lack of sleep affect your relationship? Chime in below!
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