Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Sleeping next to someone you love reduces stress and can even protect you from heart disease and cancer.

A study undertaken by the University of Pittsburgh last year, concluded that sleeping next to someone we love can reduce stress and protect us from heart disease, digestive problems and even cancer. 

One in four couples opt to sleep in separate beds, and common reasons given for this are snoring, incompatible temperature requirements and inconsiderate sleeping behaviours, such as stealing all the duvet.  But researchers found that even where couples experienced these irritations, the benefits to sharing a bed, appear to outweigh the disadvantages.

Sleeping next to someone you love is likely to encourage feelings of safety and security which would naturally lower levels of cortisol.  People who sleep alone are likely to have higher levels of cortisol through the night; cortisol is linked to the proteins associated with inflammation, heart disease and depression so it would appear that sleeping together lowers the levels of these damaging proteins.

There has long been evidence around, suggesting happily married couples tend to live longer, healthier, happier lives, and we know that good quality sleep does appear to have enormous benefits for our physical and psychological wellbeing.  Couples  who sleep together are also likely to have higher levels of oxytocin  - the love hormone associated with bonding.  It's most famously associated with lovemaking, but does get released through skin to skin contact at other times, such as holding hands, getting a hug, snuggling up under the duvet and engaging in "pillow talk".  In fact oxytocin seems to possess quite an addictive element, the more we produce, the more we seem to crave and the closer we want to be, all aiding the bonding process, but the benefits of increased oxytocin levels are not just limited to psychological effects, for researchers in Malmo University Hospital, found release of the hormone also improved patients' digestive processes and reduced inflammation - we know that excessive inflammation within the body, is linked to cancer.  Oxytocin has also been described as working like a "natural angina medication" with one study linking the number of hugs people received in a day to blood pressure - participants who received more hugs appeared to have lower blood pressure.

However, research does seem to indicate the health benefits of sleeping together only occur if the relationship is a relatively happy one and both partners enjoy, or can at least tolerate, sharing a bed.  Solutions to incompatible sleeping preferences, which might prevent couples sleeping together, could include some compromise on bed time, if one person is a night owl and their other half rises with the lark, for instance.  An e-reader might allow one partner to read in bed, in the dark, while their lover slept soundly beside them, and disagreements about duvet warmth could be overcome perhaps by one wearing pyjamas to bed and the other sleeping naked.   The huge benefits enjoyed by sleeping together, surely make it worthwhile to find practical ways around the difficulties.

Never were there so many reasons to switch off the TV, and get yourselves an early night! ;-)


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