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When Sleep Problems Cause Sex Problems

Lack of sleep can wreak havoc on sex, relationships, and your social life.

Insomnia and Social Life

People with insomnia are also less likely to engage in social activities. According to the 2009 annual poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, people with insomnia and other sleep disorders are three times as likely as others to skip leisure activities because of sleepiness.

“People will say they avoid evening social engagements because they are concerned that it will disrupt their sleep schedule,” Siebern says. “They begin to accommodate their sleep loss by rearranging or avoiding activities.”

But Gehrman believes this social withdrawal may partly be because people who are sleep deprived get less enjoyment out of life in general. “Sleep deprivation actually decreases our experience of positive emotions,” he says. “It reduces their intensity.”

Some of the effects of sleep loss -- anxiety, loss of libido, loss of interest in once pleasurable activities – if persistent are also signs of depression. Over time, lack of sleep from sleep disorders can contribute to depression, and depression can cause or aggravate sleep disorders. Depression can also put a strain on family life and other personal relationships.

Lack of Sleep: How Work Relationships Suffer

Sleep loss impairs attention, alertness, concentration, memory, reasoning, problem solving, and response time. In other words, it can wreak havoc on work performance. Add these symptoms to mood problems, and work relationships can take a dive. 

“People are often concerned about their lowered productivity and about their boss or co-workers taking notice of it,” Siebern says. “And the effects of loss of sleep on mood -- increased irritability, frustration, and so on -- can impact work relationships.”

Estranged Bed Fellows: Sleep Therapy for Spouses

Over time, the sleep-loss issues that come between spouses or partners can snowball into some pretty formidable relationship problems. Gehrman says that’s why he often encourages patients who come in for treatment at the Penn Sleep Centers to bring their spouse or partner.

“When they do, they can really see how insomnia has become a dividing factor in their relationship,” Gehrman says. “First, because of ongoing irritability and mood issues. Second, because their partner, who often sleeps like a rock, just doesn’t understand why sleep is having such a significant impact on that person’s life. And when it gets to the point where the person who is sleeping poorly wants to turn down social activities at night, it just adds fuel to the fire.”

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Reviewed on February 17, 2010
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