Can Sleep Help You Understand Your Spouse?

“You just don’t understand me.”

This is probably one of the most common accusations thrown during marital spats, when the emotional needs of one partner are misunderstood or neglected by the other. If you want to be a better mind reader, and become more in tune with your spouse’s emotions, you should sleep. Seriously. Among numerous other benefits, sleep can help you be a better mind reader.

Scientists found that sleep-deprived people were worse at reading others’ emotions compared with those who slept as much as they needed to, according to a study published in Neurobiology of Sleep and Circadian Rhythms.

The authors asked 29 men and 25 women to look at photos of faces expressing happiness, surprise, fear, sadness, disgust and anger. The researchers conducted this experiment three times: first after the people got a night’s sleep, then following a night of sleep deprivation, and once again after a night of catch-up sleep.

After just one sleepless night, the participants’ ability to recognize happiness and sadness suffered greatly. It returned to normal once they caught up on lost sleep. Other scientists have observed similar effects in people with diagnosed sleep disorders. For example, a study published in PLoS One concluded that patients with insomnia or sleep apnea had trouble reading happy and sad faces. Tip: Save the gushy talk for when your partner is well slept if you want them to better empathize with what you’re saying.

The reasons behind these findings are not completely clear, but they likely have something to do with the fact that your noggin needs shut-eye to maintain its many functions, including recognizing emotions.

Knowing how your partner feels is a key ingredient of emotional intelligence – the ability to identify and manage your own and others’ emotions – which is in turn crucial for maintaining good relations with others. Indeed, a study published in the Iranian Journal of Psychiatry found that couples with higher overall levels of emotional intelligence were more satisfied with their relationships than those who were not that emotionally smart. Makes sense.

In a nutshell, getting enough sleep can help you strengthen at least one component of emotional intelligence – a quality that may make you happier with your relationship. Yet, another reason, sleep is our super power.

Like this? Check out these ways sleep can help your love life, too. We told you – sleep can be a serious super power ….