Sharing everyday good news with your S.O.—like the PR you broke at the gym, or the compliment you got from a colleague—won’t just strengthen your bond. It may help you sleep better, too, according to researchers. That is, as long as your partner celebrates the happy news along with you, and doesn't just brush it off.
The new study builds on previous research that shows how being in a supportive relationship can improve psychological health, partner intimacy, and overall sleep patterns. But this is the first to show how sharing and responding to good news on a daily basis seems to directly affect how well couples sleep each night.
“For a long time, researchers only focused on what happens when we share bad news, when we’re stressed out and we go home and vent to our partners,” says lead author Sarah Arpin, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at Gonzaga University. “But now we know that it’s equally important, if not more important, to share the good stuff—that people can really benefit from such a simple act.”
Arpin presented the findings over the weekend at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Annual Convention in San Antonio. For the study, which has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, Arpin and her colleagues followed 162 married or co-habitating couples, asking them to complete daily online surveys for 32 days.
Individually, each participant answered questions about the best things that happened to them each day, whether they shared that information with anyone, and how that information was received when shared with their romantic partner. The participants also reported how they felt about these interactions, their current levels of loneliness and intimacy with their partner, and how well they’d slept the night before. The researchers analyzed those responses, comparing each day’s answers to that subsequent night’s sleep quality.
And they noticed a definite pattern: On days when people shared good news and felt it was received in a supportive manner, they fell asleep faster and slept better than on days when they didn't feel their partners cared. A more supportive response was also associated with less loneliness and more intimacy, which in turn predicted better sleep that night.
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In other words, the benefits of sharing good news are contingent on how your partner reacts. “If I go home and tell my husband I had a great day and I got a raise, and he says, ‘Hey what’s for dinner,’ that would be awful—it would undermine my well being,” Aprin says. “It’s an important reminder that when your partner is sharing something, you really need to be listening and open and actively engaging.”
The study participants were all heterosexual military couples, with one partner having served in active duty, the National Guard, or the Army reserves. The research is part of a larger study aimed at improving service members’ experiences reentering the workforce after deployment, and the authors say that veterans face unique challenges when it comes to loneliness, relationships, and sleep problems.
But all couples can benefit from the study’s findings, says Arpin, because all couples can struggle with intimacy and communication problems—and the physiological consequences those problems can have on sleep and mental health.
In their presentation, the researchers conclude that celebrating good news together is an “important relationship-maintenance and health-enhancing process.” They say that future research should study the impact of sharing good news on specific behaviors, such as diet or alcohol use, to learn about other ways it may affect well being.
“It may be common sense that we all want to share with our partners when good things happen,” Arpin says, “but the real lesson here is that doing so can have a stronger impact on your health than you might realize.”