In my last post (Link to Post Sleep on It or Never Go to Bed Angry? Part 1 and Part 2) I went over my situation in my relationship with John and a small “argument” (if you can really call it that) regarding the logistics of the trip I am on today. He’s really grumpy because of it and I can tell that he’s not happy that I technically got my way and that he did not get his (he wanted to fly and I wanted to drive, neither of which would have been bad for either of us if we had planned ahead and made sure we had both gotten enough sleep; we went to bed late the night before, however, and I had an allergic reaction that resulted in taking the French pharmacy’s answer to my allergy problems, which to be frank, are more effective than any type of melatonin, ambien, or possible even general anesthesia haha -thanks French pharmacist!).
In hindsight I’m wondering if the decision to talk about an issue before bed was a great idea. I mean we both got some sleep, but we also overslept quite a bit. I didn’t feel well-rested when we woke up. In fact, I would have been entirely okay with not going with John on the trip, but I wanted to be supportive and escape the family for awhile, see another small French town, have the therapeutic feeling of being able to freely buy things at the event like water, wine, more wine, rose, fries, and other foods that of course provide me with the emotional comfort that is so readily available in NYC a la Seamless, the 24-hour CVS on every-other-street corner, or MiniBar (the app that delivers alcohol from local stores within one-hour right to your door!).
I have heard that cliché piece of advice, “Never go to bed angry,” just as often as I’ve heard business colleagues and friends encourage me to “Sleep on it,” and see how I feel the next day. I have always been the type of person who finds it hard to ignore my emotions and block them out when I am trying to focus on work. It is either one extreme or another—I work and completely block out all feeling and emotion, or I must resolve the problem before I can focus on getting anything done. I did some research to find out how the experts on sleep weigh in on whether or not you should confront problems before bed versus resting and waiting until another time when both people have slept to talk about a problem in a relationship.
Here’s what the research says…well…it depends. On what? Well, whether or not the argument is worth it, how important the issue really is, your existing emotional state, and much more. Here are some different resources and findings…
The case for staying up and not going to bed angry:
Sleeping on an issue may make it more difficult to let go of later because the brain archives resentment and negative memories differently when you sleep on it.
According to sleeping tight and discussing later, an article from “The Guardian” asks the same question about not going to bed angry and highlighted an evidence-backed study that supports the notion that “negative emotional memories are harder to reverse after a night’s sleep.”
The article highlights the study that suggest the brain reorganizes itself during sleep and negative memories and associations are stored differently while asleep, thus making it more difficult to let go of the negative sentiments in the future. I’m no scientist, but it has to do with the brain’s memory center and where storage is placed during sleep—the study says it best (click here to read more) but in sum…according to this study and article. do NOT go to bed angry- take the time to first resolve the argument so that the brain does not archive the resentment. The same conclusion is found in a NYT blog article that quotes the bottom line: “Going to sleep upset or disturbed preserves the emotion, research suggests.”
Okay, we get it, it might make you hold on to things. This is sort of the only research that I found that said you should resolve the problems before going to sleep outside of a lot of old married couples reinforcing that piece of advice.
Now I am sure you’re all wondering, what about the other side? Or what other factors that might make Sleeping on It a better option?
When to go to bed…
If refusing to go to bed until an issue is resolved puts pressure on both parties to resolve conflict in a limited amount of time when effective communication or conflict resolution is less likely than simply arguing and ending up more sleep deprived.
I found a blog that a woman decided as a bride-to-be to make an agreement with her to-be-husband before they got married that once they were married they would never go to bed angry. After they were married, she had committed to not going to bed angry but found that not only was it often a frustrating road that was difficult due to exhaustion, the desire to skip ahead to sleep, and a conversation that has less to do with effective communication, especially when the next day both people will ultimately be less well rested because of staying up late to resolve the initial conflict. As she provides her advice for the bridal shower “jar of wisdom” (I did not know this was a thing?), “getting rest is, in fact, the ultimate salve for anger.”
What other factors does the research and the relationship experts highlight when considering whether to STAY UP AND TALK ABOUT IT NOW v. F*CK IT WE CAN DEAL WITH THIS IN THE MORNING after a full night’s rest?
The times when “Sleeping on It” is a better choice than dealing with the argument include a bunch of factors like how exhausted each person is, if drugs or alcohol have been consumed, what plans or important events are scheduled for the next day (aka how much sleep you need for that to be successful), when emotions are very heightened and we might need more time to process emotions, or when finger pointing and bringing up many different issues is happening more than actually resolving the initial reason for the argument.
Why is Sleeping on it Better? See some more factors in my continued and final post “Sleep on It or Go to Bed Angry? Part 4” here (Link to Sleep on it or Go to Bed Angry here).