Relationship advice: Ignore the myth 'don't go to bed angry'

Jennifer Geer

Fatigue won't help you resolve your differences. Sometimes you need to sleep on it.

"Don't go to bed angry." This traditional, but misguided, piece of advice can lead couples to argue long into the night as they grow more and more sleep-deprived.

The problem is, the later it gets and the more you try to resolve an issue when you should be sleeping, the more emotional and reactive you can become. One researcher corrected this advice from "don't go to bed angry" to "don't fight before bed."

Why should you ignore the old advice?

1) You'll have a harder time seeing each other's points of view.

Lack of sleep makes it harder to understand each other's feelings. Amie M. Gordon, a social psychologist, found that when either partner experienced a lack of sleep, they were less able to see the other's point of view and less able to resolve differences.

"In other words, a poor night of sleep for you or your partner may lead you to fight when you wouldn’t otherwise, and when you do start fighting, you may just find yourself having a harder time resolving the issue," said Gordon.

2) When you're tired, you're irritable.

Fatigue can make a person feel more irritable and sensitive than when they're well-rested. And this can make an argument turn emotional. Samantha Rodman, psychologist and dating coach doesn't think it's a bad thing to go to bed angry.

"Lack of sleep can greatly exacerbate conflict. When couples are exhausted, they are more irritable and snippy," said Rodman. "Going to bed mad can often mean that you wake up feeling okay, especially if the conflict was exacerbated or even entirely caused by two irritable, fatigued people sniping at one another."

3) One of you has a big event the next day.

You or your partner may have a reason you need a good night of sleep. Perhaps an important meeting, or a job interview, or a final exam. In this case, the most considerate thing you can do for your partner, or your partner can do for you, is let yourselves be well-rested.

Whatever issue you want to discuss doesn't need to be done the night before a big event. This doesn't mean you shouldn't talk out your feelings at all. But wait until the event is over, and then have your talk, preferably not right before bedtime.

4) Sleeping on it may help you process your emotions.

Sometimes a good night's sleep can make you feel completely different about a situation. You may be able to understand each other a little better or find a solution that wasn't there the night before when you were both angry and tired.

You'd be surprised how much lack of sleep can affect your life. Don't let it make your conflicts worse with your partner. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your relationship is to go to bed angry.

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Jennifer covers lifestyle content and local news for the Chicago area.

Chicago, IL

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