Do your brain and your relationship a favor.
Pretend for a second that you and your boo are having a fight.
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A bad one.
You’re mad, they’re mad, everyone’s mad.
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There’s yelling, and crying, and maybe even name-calling. It’s ugly.
And it’s also like, 1 A.M. So what’s your plan?
Here’s a thought: GO THE EFF TO SLEEP.
Right now. And forget the old saying “never go to bed angry,” because that old saying is actual bullshit. And that’s according to science! Seriously.
You might think that staying up to fight it out proves that you care about your relationship and are willing to put in the work needed to fix what’s wrong… but by following this tired idea, you’re actually doing a lot of potential damage, rather than helping.
There are several factors at play here, Dr. Charles Czeisler, M.D., Ph.D., chairman of the board of the National Sleep Foundation and chief of sleep medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, tells BuzzFeed Life.
For starters, when you go for a long period of time without getting sleep, your brain just doesn’t work as well as it normally does.
That’s because the longer you stay awake, your brain becomes less and less efficient at burning energy, Czeisler says.
Here’s why: One big function of sleep is to give your body time to replenish a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in your cells. “Adenosine triphosphate is a molecule that researchers often call the energy currency for life,” he says. “It’s in all cells, and it’s where your energy to do things comes from. As the ATP [molecules] are used for energy, they break down into less and less complex molecules.” Those less complex molecules can still be used to help you burn energy, but they’re nowhere as efficient or effective as the original ATP molecules. And the longer you stay awake, the more degraded those molecules become because they haven’t had the opportunity to replenish.
Think of it this way: Your household appliances won’t work properly if you don’t have the right voltage coming in through your electrical sockets. The same thing happens when you try to use your brain with the less complex adenosine molecules.
When your ability to burn fuel becomes degraded, that impacts different parts of your brain, Czeisler says. The prefrontal cortex, for instance, which is the area responsible for judgment and self-control.
And when the part of your brain responsible for judgment and self-control isn’t working right… you may do or say things you later regret.
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What starts out as a simple argument can evolve into something much more damaging when you lose your ability to control yourself. And wouldn’t it be better to just shelve the argument for a few hours?
And here’s another thing: Your brain can actually solve problems for you in your sleep.
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There are different stages of sleep that you go through each night. REM sleep is the stage of sleep when we integrate everything we learned from the day, Czeisler says. “In deep sleep [another sleep stage] you store memories,” he says, “and in REM sleep you seem to integrate those memories with other memories that you had previously learned. Insight seems to be an important element of what happens during REM sleep.” Meaning: your brain makes sense of things while you sleep. Which can be very helpful during a complicated fight!
By pausing your argument until you’ve both logged at least 7 hours, you’re potentially giving yourself a subconscious way to solve whatever issue is at the heart of your fight in the first place. It’s totally possible that you’ll wake up the next day with a better understanding of the situation at hand, and a clearer picture of how to solve your own problems.
And finally: Not getting a good night’s sleep can actually make you fight more the next day.
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The Weinstein Company / rooneymara.tumblr.com
As BuzzFeed Life previously reported in the story :
“[Not getting enough sleep] makes people experience more negative emotions and react more strongly to bad things, which means that people might feel more annoyed or angry at their partner than they would if they weren’t tired,” Amie Gordon, Ph.D., a postdoctoral scholar in the Institute of Personality and Social Research at the University of California at Berkeley, told BuzzFeed Life in an email.
That is the opposite of helpful when it comes to successful conflict resolution.
So here’s how to put a fight on hold to get the sleep you both desperately need:
Make sure that your partner knows that you’re not blowing them off or giving them the cold shoulder — you are just calling a time out, with genuine plans to address the issue at a smarter time. For the story , BuzzFeed Life spoke with Robert Taibbi, L.S.C.W., a Charlottesville Virginia-based therapist. “Say, ‘This is not a good time to talk about this — this is important, but let’s talk about it in the morning when we’re both less tired and can think clearly,’” Taibbi recommended.
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