We all know how it feels when you’ve not had enough sleep- tired, cranky, irritable, unproductive and overwrought. Even the simplest task can seem overwhelming and this is largely due to the fact that your brain and cognitive function is not operating at optimal levels.
So, it’s not surprising that when it comes to navigating a relationship, sleep deprivation can cause major problems. Clinical Psychologist and Towards Better Sleep Facilitator, Kathryn Smith, says; “The part of your brain that monitors mood and emotions, called the amygdala, is affected when you are sleep deprived, causing you to overreact to situations that normally wouldn’t bother you.”
“Research suggests, and anecdotally I can concur, that lack of sleep can also lead to increased stress, as well as anxiety and depression, all of which put pressure on relationships” Smith says. Often people think there are problems with their relationships when in reality, the stressors and irritations are a result of not enough sleep or other lifestyle choices.
Lack of sleep can also lead to a decline in overall health, with your body deprived of the downtime it needs to restore and replenish cells. Enter the relationship triple threat- stressed, tired and sick. An unhealthy you can often lead to an unhealthy relationship and some very testing times. According to the National Sleep Foundation, evidence suggests that people with insomnia have a ten-fold risk of developing depression and an increased risk of other co-morbid conditions.
Another key consideration when it comes to relationships is the importance of giving each other enough time. It can be challenging to feed your relationship when life pulls you from pillar to post, and with Mr Sandman beckoning, date night can fall to the wayside. Setting aside time and committing to quality time together can make a real difference.
However, the underlying sleep problems or other health concerns that are affecting a relationship need to be addressed and it’s important to encourage your significant other to seek professional help.
Clinical Psychologist Kathryn Smith and Psychiatrist Dr Curt Gray have been effectively treating insomnia with cognitive behavioural therapy through their long-standing group programme, Towards Better Sleep. Unlike sleep medication, CBT is not a quick fix and takes time to work, which is why the programme spans across 6 weeks, focusing on education, behavioural techniques, correcting faulty thinking and relaxation strategies.
A group setting has proven an effective setting to treat people with sleep problems, allowing participants to share their experiences and learn from one another in a more cost-effective way. If you think you could benefit from group therapy, talk to your GP about your suitability for the Towards Better Sleep programme. Or, if you would like to speak to a Psychologists about improving your relationship, visit our website for the list of Clinical Psychologist based at Morningside and Newmarket.