Hold the phone! How can too much sleep and exercise be a bad thing? After all, every single medical profession under the sun spends an inordinate amount of time extolling the virtues of both, right? While it’s absolutely 100% true that we need to get a good night’s sleep and spend more time exercising than “Netflix and chilling,” turns out too much of a good thing can have a negative impact on your relationships. Read on to find out why!
Who Said Too Much Sleep and Exercise is a Bad Thing?
Let’s start with the “who” behind the theory, then we’ll get to the “why.” After all, anyone who makes such a bold statement better be ready to back it up with a whole lot of science, right? The “who” happens to be Penn State, one of the most well-respected colleges in the country. More specifically, a team of researchers led by Mark Feinberg, a professor in the Edna Bennet Pierce Prevention Research Center. If the name doesn’t clue you in, the center is dedicated to preventative medicine, especially as it relates to children and families. Basically, they’re leading experts on what NOT to do if you want to have a happy and healthy family.
The Penn State study looked at how different aspects of lives affected families, with a focus on new parents. They studied everything from each parent’s physical activity to how much they slept every night. What they found was nothing short of fascinating.
While adequate sleep and exercise was “linked with more personal well-being, a better couple relationship and more closeness with their baby,” too much of either caused problems. Basically, when dads sleep too much or moms spend more time working out, relationships suffer.
Why Does Sleep and Exercise Negatively Impact Relationships?
The “long story short” of it is this: dads who slept more than average reported “lower overall well-being and less closeness with their partner and child.” At the same time, on days when mom spent more time working out, couples were more likely to get into arguments.
Ironically, the opposite is true on both counts. When mom got more than average sleep, she reported a higher sense of well-being, and when dad worked out more than usual, there was a lower chance of arguments erupting.
So, why the double standard? It has a lot to do with the way we perceive the roles of moms and dads. Despite years of fighting to bust up old stereotypes, mothers are still seen as the primary caregiver in the family. When mom spends more time on her own needs (like working out), dad starts to feel resentful, which leads to arguments. Feinberg also explains that, “it’s also possible that the extra time spent with the child is stressful for fathers, leading fathers to be more irritable on such days and leading to more arguments with the partner.”
On the flip side, moms can feel resentful towards dads who sleep in rather than wake up to help out with the kids. We already know that moms get less sleep than dads. Science proved it back in 2017. When you’re exhausted from staying up all night with an infant, it’s easy to feel resentful when your partner gets more than his fair share of dream time.
What’s Bad for Your Marriage is Also Bad for Your Kids
These findings aren’t just disturbing because of the impact they have on your partnership, but also because of the impact on your child’s development.
“In general, new parents report higher levels of stress, depression and couple conflict, as well as less sleep, companionship and romance with their partner,”
New parents are already dealing with a smorgasbord of challenges, including higher stress levels, sleep deprivation, and a decrease in romance time with their spouse. “Ironically, it’s also the period when children are most vulnerable, when their brains and regulatory systems are rapidly developing to set the stage for their functioning for the rest of their lives, and when they are most dependent on parents for consistent affection and support,” Feinberg said.
So basically, you’re fighting in front of your kids (which is already a no-no) at a time when it can impact their overall well-being the most. Note that there’s a big difference between arguing and fighting. Some research suggests that it can actually be good to let kids see you argue in a respectful way. Key words: respectful. It teaches them that people can disagree and still love each other.
What Can You Do to Counteract the Negative Effects of “Too Much” Sleep and Exercise?
Since both sleep and exercise are primarily a positive thing, you don’t want to give either of them up, even for the sake of your marriage. Instead, sit down with your partner when you’re both in a good mood and rationally discuss your feelings. If you’re upset because your partner sleeps in every single weekend or heads off to the gym for hours every night and never gives you an opportunity to do the same, work out a schedule where you can both get the extra sleep and exercise that you crave.
Discussing your feelings in a calm and rational manner lets you really get to the heart of what’s bugging you about each other’s actions and helps you create a solution that is good for everyone involved, including your kids.
Too Much Sleep & Exercise Video