Sleep is important. We all know it but most of us probably are not getting enough of it. In fact, there is a substantial amount of data that suggests the majority of us are definitely not getting the medically recommended proper amount of sleep. While it is easy to point the finger at any number of the many reasons we aren’t sleeping enough—working too many hours, too much stress, poor diet, not enough exercise, etc—it is not always easy to find the right remedy. Sure there are medications, but they can have undesirable side effects; and it is simply not easy to consistently eat healthy and get enough exercise.
According to a new study, though, the answer might be as simple as finding a mate. Yes, we also have many studies that indicate cuddling improves immune response and induces a state of comfort and relaxation, but a healthy relationship—which includes sleeping next to (if not “with”) someone you love can reduce anxiety. More importantly, perhaps, this study suggests that you can start benefitting from this in your 20s.
The research team found that a healthy relationship in early and mid-20s can lead to less anxiety by the age of 32. This will eventually lead to better sleep quality by age 37.
Lead study author Chloe Huelsnitz explains that sleep is considered a shared behavior between an intimate couple. This new research, then, contributes more data to an increasing body of work that indicates affection lowers stress levels. Furthermore, she says, “The current study is the first to demonstrate stress exposure as a mechanism linking relationship effectiveness to an important health outcome—sleep quality—over time.”
The University of Minnesota PhD candidate goes on to say, “The current research found support for a stress exposure reduction model of relationship effectiveness,” concluding that since adults generally share sleeping environments with their intimate/romantic partners—and given how central these romantic relationships are in their lives, “the patterns of behavior and experiences that characterize one’s current and past romantic relationships may affect the prevalence of conditions that undermine better sleep.”
And that prevalence of conditions which contribute to better sleep eventually lead to reduced stress and anxiety.
The results of this study have been published in the journal Personal Relationships.