Spending time with your ex after a divorce changes the quality of your sleep

Spending time with your ex after a divorce changes the quality of your sleep

American scientists assessed the quality of sleep of more than a hundred divorcees. This 5-month study revealed that participants who spent more time with their ex had poorer quality sleep. Explanations.

Divorce often followed by sleepless nights…

Most often, divorce is a significant life upheaval that can negatively impact psychological and physical well-being. Previous studies have linked it to an increased risk of premature death as well as a range of adverse health effects. Thus, sleep disorders are often reported and have been associated with higher blood pressure when they last more than 10 weeks.

As such, the team of Andrea M. Coppola, psychologist from the University of Arizona wanted to examine changes in sleep efficiency during the 5 months following divorce. Sleep efficiency is a measure of how much time a person spends in bed translates into actual sleep. It is calculated as the ratio of total time spent sleeping to total time spent in bed, usually expressed as a percentage.

The days and nights of 122 divorcees scrutinized

Aged 24 to 65, the 122 participants were married for an average of 13 years and separated for an average of 4 months at the start of the study. The researchers conducted assessments three times for one week over a 5-month period.

At each of the 3 evaluation periods, participants were asked to wear an electronically activated recorder (to determine the time spent with the ex-partner and the time spent in front of the TV – a marker of desocialization linked to greater risk significant depression) over a weekend and an actiwatch at night for 7 days (to assess sleep quality and efficiency).

Finally, participants completed assessments of emotional attachment and separation-related psychological distress.

Too much time spent with your ex can harm your sleep quality

Results: Contrary to the study authors’ expectations, sleep efficiency did not improve over the 5-month study period. Average sleep efficiency was 82% across all assessments. However, time spent with the ex-partner was inversely associated with sleep efficiency (more time with ex = poorer sleep). Conversely, poor sleep efficiency did not predict more contact with the ex-partner.

It would therefore be contact with the ex-partner that would reduce sleep efficiency, rather than poor sleep efficiency making individuals more likely to spend time with the ex-partner. Logically, participants with higher levels of attachment anxiety and those who spent more time watching TV tended to have lower sleep efficiency.

Clues to help in the event of a breakup?

These findings highlight the influence of social relationships on health behaviors and suggest potential intervention targets for adults recovering from the end of a marriage“, concluded the authors of the study.

The authors acknowledge, however, that since most participants were included in the study a few months after the divorce, the results might not have been the same if the study had begun immediately after the separation.

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