When Sleep Problems Cause Sex Problems

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

From the WebMD Archives


Sleepy and Grumpy: How Personal Relationships Are Affected

Sleep loss can make you quarrelsome and less able to cope with life’s ups and downs. “Patients with sleep disorders often report mood changes such as increased irritability or frustration,” says Siebern. “This can impact their interactions with spouses, children, and friends.”

Parents who don’t get enough sleep commonly worry that they are not spending enough time with their children or engaging with them enough because of fatigue, Siebern adds.

Unfortunately, the time of day when mood problems tend to be worse may also be the time of day when your children return from school or you have alone time with your spouse. “As people are increasingly sleep starved, they suffer from lack of energy late in the afternoon or evening,” Thayer says. “They become more vulnerable to tension, anxiety, and stress at those times.”

According to the Sleep Disorders Institute, people with insomnia -- an inability to fall asleep or stay asleep long enough to be rested -- say they have a difficult time dealing with even minor stress. They also have more problems relating to other people in social and work settings than those without insomnia. Some research shows that people with insomnia generally have a lower quality of life than people who do not have sleep difficulties.

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.