Honey, We’re not in Kansas Anymore: Lack of Sleep and Relationships

A brain without adequate sleep can make for a grouchy kind of day.  However, a relationship without sleep is like “Lions, and Tigers, and Bears, Oh my!” Allow me to explain…do you remember The Wizard of Oz?  And more importantly, do you remember the scene where they chant this classic movie line?  It’s an accurate portrayal of the risk to your brain and your relationships when you miss a restful night of Z’s:   

Dorothy, Tin Man, and Scarecrow are entering the ominous woods on the way to the Emerald City, nervous to say the least.  They link arms and gallop down the yellow-brick road chanting “Lions, Tigers, and Bears. . .” scanning the shadows for something that might jump.  Enter the Cowardly Lion – ROOOAAARR—super scary at first, until later we discover he’s only a big ball of nerves. 

Studies suggest that –much like trying to find your way through the woods in the dark—a night of broken sleep alters your brain so that it gets stuck on high alert.  Suddenly, you can’t distinguish between what is significant threat and what is not: every sound of a twig snapping, or leaf rustling, or minor blip in your plans, must be a lion, tiger, or bear.  Limited sleep also reduces the ability to read a partner’s emotions while increasing one’s own negative emotions. In other words, after a night of insomnia, your partner might look and sound scarier than they really are;  the slightest scowl, frown, or growl can read like an angry carnivore.

Needless to say, when one or both partners are lacking sleep, it can be a recipe for increased and unnecessary conflict!  We wake up exhausted and feel as friendly as a flying monkey.  But what can we do about it?  Here are three tips to keep a poor night’s sleep from sabotaging your good relationship vibes:    

  1. Ask for support.  Let your loved one know that you didn’t sleep well and put it out there as gently as you can:  “Hey, Babe, I didn’t sleep well last night, so bear with me today.” Asking for help and accepting that it was a difficult night supports a more positive attitude in general. 

     

  2. DON’T talk about the tough stuff.  For the most part, avoiding conflict isn’t helpful, but the rules change after a sleepless night.  Tell yourself, “I know this mountain of dirty clothes on the floor (when we just talked about cleaning up) feels like a Supreme Court case – but I’ll give it a few days.  If I still feel miffed after a good night’s sleep, I’ll mention it.” 

     

  3. Take a criticism detour.  You can’t change that you had a rough night, but you can make it a goal to steer clear of the negative things your sleep-deprived brain are more apt to see.  Swear off any form of criticism.  Instead, choose to thank her when she brings you coffee, or when he fills your gas tank. The more appreciation you can express, especially after a night of tossing and turning, the more positive you’ll both feel!    

Where is Spring?

SNOW IN APRIL?!?!? I just got done plowing the driveway and am greatly anticipating temperatures greater than 40 degrees!  I am in the same boat as most Minnesotans at this point of the year, wanting spring to start and the snow to vanish. As I type schools are delayed, accidents are occurring, and roads are being plowed. On the flip side kids are outside playing, snowmen are coming to life, and families are enjoying life together. 

Comparatively this much snow in the southern part of our country can be crippling, but Minnesotans are prepared. We are ready for battle. We throw on our winter jackets, mittens, and scarfs; take out our shovels and blowers, and move forward. We adapt to the elements, we invest in tools that will help us through, and we turn snow into sport (snowmobiling, ice fishing, skiing, etc.) Snow is a way of life for some; we embrace it. Others may struggle and complain each time it snows, but we all get through it! We  have hope spring will come, it always has; trees bud, flowers grow and temperatures warm. It may not arrive on our terms or as soon as we'd like but it comes. For some our hope weakens, and fear we may enter another ice age. For others we take vacations to warm locations, we look longingly at pictures of warm beaches to help us through the winter months.

Snow in April may reflect how your marriage or relationship has felt recently. You may be going through a season of life where there seems to be little change. Another hardship or argument has added greater stress or demand into your daily life. You might have recently discovered an affair. You may be uncertain of what will happen next, or even what your next step might be. Whatever it may be, know that there is hope! Know that spring is coming and you have tools available to help dig you out. Counseling can be much like a snow plow, we help you to make a path through the snow so you can drive on, so can see clearly again, so you can take your next step and get back on your feet. If you are frustrated with a recent argument, if you are losing hope, if you don't know what next steps to take, then maybe now is the time to consider counseling. Today is an opportunity to change your circumstances. Today is an opportunity to see clearly again. Today is a day for hope!

Spring is on its way!