– EN Fitness & Wellbeing – With Valentine’s Day just over a week away, love is in the air – and new research shows that finding romance in early adulthood could help you sleep soundly long after youthful passion has faded.
The new study, published in the journal Personal Relationships, documents how relationship and life stress individuals experience at the ages of 23 and 32, are related to sleep quality at age 37. Researchers from the University of Minnesota found that those who had positive relationship experiences at 23 had experienced fewer stressful life events by the time they turned 32, which led to improved sleep quality as they entered middle-age.
PhD candidate Chloe Huelsnitz, who led the research, said: “Although a large body of evidence shows that relationships are important for health, we are just beginning to understand how the characteristics of people’s close relationships affect health behaviours, such as sleep. The findings of our study suggest that one way that relationships affect health behaviour is through their effects on individuals’ stress.”
The researchers assessed participants in the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation (MLSRA), which began in 1975 with a sample of 267 first-time mothers and their children, whose personal development it has followed to adulthood and on to early middle-age.
Although the analysis demonstrated that the strength of relationships at 23 positively predicted sleep quality, it had no effect on sleep duration.
Past studies have found that strong current romantic relationships can improve sleep quality and duration by meaning we are less exposed to stress, but the new findings suggest that finding love in your early 20s could have positive effects long after the end of a youthful liaison.
Earlier research from the Middle East Technical University in Turkey suggested that one reason a loving partner can help us get some decent shut-eye is by comforting us – reducing anxiety and helping us avoid behaviours that have a harmful impact on sleep.
“Having responsive partners who would be available to protect and comfort us should things go wrong is the most effective way for us humans to reduce anxiety, tension, and arousal,” the institution’s Dr. Emre Selcuk wrote in the 2016 study.