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!    

Are you Connected?

FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, and good old fashion texting keeps us very connected with those around us, or does it?  Social media plays a big role in our lives, as does checking emails, texting friends, and surfing the internet.  Because we are surrounded by technology we feel we have connection at our fingertips.  I feel that there is a time and place for our handheld devices; however there needs to be more balance.   Real connection is being pushed to the backburner to FaceBook updates and Snap Chat.

We fill our planners with so much ‘do to’ activities that we don’t have time for real connection, so we substitute with technology.  Is there really any substitution for face to face conversation, quality time spent with loved ones, or sit down dinners with out handhelds vibrating or buzzing.  I get it, tech free connecting takes effort, it takes precious time, and sometimes we just don’t feel up to the task.  Nevertheless, the rewards we reap for reaching out to our partner and family are worth the inconvenience.

We are relational creatures, designed to thrive when we are connecting with others.   It is very easy to get into a rut when it comes to feeling like you are not connected to the ones you love and care for the most.  It is during this time that you have a choice to dig the rut deeper or make a change. 

The first step to committing to connection is to implement an E-Break.  An E-break is a designated time period where all electronic devices are turned to the off position and stowed away.  Some of you might be hyperventilating at the thought of giving your iPhone a break, but trust me, it’s priceless when you do.  You regain the state of mind that does not need to be going a million miles an hour.  You refocus on what is important and often times what is right in front of you, your partner, your children, and your life. 

This week try to implement an E-break in your life.  If you are single turn off all electronic devices and go do something very enjoyable with a friend, with no interruptions.  If you are in a relationship turn to your partner and have a real conversation.  Have you been married a while and feel like you have nothing to talk about, pick up the book, The 5 Love Languages (Chapman) and take turns reading out loud to each other.  Another idea that my husband and I do, each week, is play checkers.  Whoever wins choses, either a chore for the other to do or my favorite, a back massage.  If you are fortunate enough to have children do a family game night, Hasbro always has $5.00 off coupons online. 

When you are going through your E-break take notice of how your body is feeling during the interaction and be grateful that you took this opportunity to reconnect.