Your spouse may be keeping your insomnia going. Here’s how

A new study shows that partners of people who have insomnia may try to be supportive by engaging in a range of behaviours that unintentionally go against treatment recommendations.

Insomnia
During the study, 74% of partners encouraged an early bedtime or late wake time, which is in direct conflict with the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia.(Shutterstock)

If you have a hard time falling asleep on a regular basis, consult a doctor rather than act on the well-meaning but ill-informed advice dished out by your partner? Turns out, bed mates may unintentionally contribute to the perpetuation of insomnia.

Preliminary results from a new study show that partners of people who have insomnia may try to be supportive by engaging in a range of behaviours that unintentionally contradict treatment recommendations.

Results show that 74% of partners encouraged an early bedtime or late wake time, which is in direct conflict with the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBTI). Of these, 42% also encouraged doing other things in bed, such as reading or watching TV and 35% encouraged naps, caffeine or reduced daytime activities.


Researchers also found that bed partners made accommodations that affected their own functioning, including their sleep and life outside of work. (Shutterstock)

“It is possible that partners are unwittingly perpetuating insomnia symptoms in the patient with insomnia,” said lead author Alix Mellor from Monash University in Victoria, Australia. “It is therefore important for more data to be collected to determine whether insomnia treatments may better benefit patients and their partners by proactively assessing and addressing bed partner behaviours in treatment programmes.”

The team studied 31 partners, including 14 women, of individuals seeking treatment for insomnia as part of a randomised, controlled trial investigating partner-assisted interventions for insomnia. Partners completed several questionnaires at baseline: the Family Accommodation Scale, Beck Anxiety Inventory and Dyadic Adjustment Scale.

The insomnia patients also completed baseline questionnaires, including the Insomnia Severity Index, and kept a sleep diary for one week prior to starting treatment.

Results also show that bed partners made accommodations that affected their own functioning, including their sleep and life outside of work. This may explain why partners who attempted to be helpful experienced more anxiety, though the insomnia patients perceived the relationship to be more satisfying.

“Our preliminary results suggest that while some of these behaviours make the patient feel supported, their partner may be experiencing more anxiety,” said Mellor.


The research abstract is published in an online supplement of the journal Sleep.

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