Should you go to sleep angry?
We’ve all been there. An evening argument with your partner, friend or loved one drags on into the night. You know you should sleep, but you have that age-old advice floating through your head. “Don’t go to bed angry or on an argument” they say. “It’ll be much better if you make up before bed” they claim.
Well actually it’s not always the best thing. And there are in fact scientific reasons why you should call it a night, even if you’re angry and mid-argument.
On the other hand, there are reasons why the advice rings true. It’s a minefield, but we’re here to give you the science and help you make the right choice for you.
Sleep on it – You need the energy of life
When you go for long periods without sleep, your brain doesn’t work as well as it normally does. You know what happens when you’re not thinking straight. You make rash decisions and say things you don’t actually mean – which is never good in an argument.
Here’s the science bit. One of the main functions of sleep is to give your body time to replenish a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in your cells – this is present in all your cells and is basically where your energy comes from. When you burn energy, your ATP levels deplete, and the less ATP you have the less efficient you are at burning energy. The longer you stay awake the less efficient you become.
This is why arguments seem to go around in circles when you’re both tired. Also, you’ll be much more likely to get tetchy with each other if your energy is low.
Go to sleep, restore your energy and you’ll no doubt find an easy solution in the morning.
Sleep on it – You might even get a fresh insight while you sleep
When you sleep, you experience different sleep stages, one of which is REM. At this stage you integrate everything you’ve learned from the day and mix it in with other important memories and learnings. This means you may even be able to get a different take on the argument and solve it while you sleep.
Think of the phrase “sleep on it” and it’s exactly that. Your mind will be much less muggy, and you’ll be able to approach the issue with a new-found clarity.
Settle and argument – You’ll quickly be able to move on
According to a 2016 study, if you have a bad experience or suffer from a traumatic experience and then sleep your brain is more likely to place that into your long-term as opposed to short-term memories. This means that you’ll find it harder to forget it.
This is a really helpful quote from the study. “Sleep deprivation immediately after traumatic experiences may prevent traumatic memories from being consolidated and thus provide the opportunity to block the formation of traumatic memories.”
If you settle your argument before you sleep, it will probably be much easier to forget and move on. Whereas if you let it fester and go to sleep it could potentially leave a lasting impression and be much harder to get past.
Making up before bed will help to reduce the response in your mind, but if you refuse to do this the memory may become “protected” and make a much bigger impact.
The upshot? Kiss and make up before hitting the hay.
Settle an argument – Your stress levels will increase if you leave it
You may be able to resolve the argument in your head during the REM stage of sleep. You could feel energised enough to tackle it head on, but if your partner is refusing to speak to you the argument will fester, and the divisions will begin. That’s a stressful environment in the home that no one wants to be in.
There’s also no guarantee you will have slept well if the argument increased your stress levels before sleep, making everything much worse and only enhancing the stressful environment and the divisions between you.
An increase in stress before bed causes your body to produce more stress hormones which negatively impact your ability to sleep. It’s a continual cycle; put simply – stress and good sleep just don’t co-exist.
To reduce your stress levels and encourage the onset of quality sleep, sometimes it’s much better to tackle things head on and resolve them before you go to bed, giving yourselves the opportunity to start things fresh the next day after a decent night’s sleep.
There are persuasive arguments on either side and not necessarily one definitive answer. The best course of action may well be to find what works for you and try and stick to it.