Do your relationship and your brain a favor. Act for a moment that you and your significant other are having a bad fight. You’re angry, they’re angry, everyone’s angry.
There are shouting and crying, and perhaps even name-calling. It’s also like, 3 am. So what are you going to do? Here’s an idea: GO TO SLEEP. Now.
And don’t bother about the old saying “Do not go to sleep angry,” since that is just bullshit (according to science)! You may believe that by staying up to work it out shows that you appreciate your relationship and want to put in the effort to fix the problem. However, by pursuing this tired idea, you are doing more harm than good. When you are without sleep for an extended period of time, your brain simply won’t work as effective as it would normally do.
Since the longer you remain awake, the less efficient your brain burns energy. One of the biggest function of sleep is to offer your body time to regenerate a molecule called the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in your cells. ATP is a molecule which scientists often refer to as “the energy currency for life”. ATP is in all cells, and that’s where your all energy to do things derives from.
You consume your stored ATP as you burn energy.
The lesser ATP you have, the less effective you burn your energy. The longer you remain awake, the more you deplete your ATP without restoring it. Imagine your household appliances can’t work properly when you don’t have the correct voltage coming through your electric sockets.
It’s the same thing when you use your brain with lesser power capability. If your capability to burn energy becomes compromised, it impacts various parts of your brain, for instance the prefrontal cortex that is tied to judgment and self-discipline. When your judgment and self-discipline are not functioning right, you might say or do something you regret. What started out as a mere argument could develop into something far more destructive when cannot control yourself.
Won’t it be better to simply put the argument on hold for a couple of hours? Also, your brain can iron out your issues for you in your sleep. There are various phases of sleep. Rapid eye movement (REM) is the phase of sleep when we consolidate all that we learned in the day.
Deep sleep is the phase when you save memories.
So in REM sleep you actually integrate those new memories with old memories that you previously saved. Insight is a crucial aspect of what occurs during REM sleep. Your brain attempts to make sense of things when you sleep, which could be really handy during a complex argument!
But if you do not get a good night’s sleep, it could make you argue more the following day. By taking a break off your fight until you have both slept at least 7 hours, you are providing yourselves a subconscious way to resolve whatever problem that caused your fight. It is very possible that you will wake up with a better understanding of your situation, and a clearer picture of how to solve your problem. Not getting adequate sleep makes people feel negative emotions and respond badly to negative situations, which means they may get irritated or mad at their significant other than they normally would if they weren’t that tired.
That is not helpful when for conflict resolution. So make sure your significant other knows that you are not ignoring them, you’re simply calling a time out, it is important to you, you have sincere plans in wanting to resolve your problem at a smarter time, and get the sleep you both desperately need!