Late-night fights with your partner are sometimes inevitable. In today’s fast-paced world, most of us are fatigued, sleep-deprived, and irritable at the end of each weekday. Therefore, the tiniest comment can turn into a full-scale argument.
Avoiding going to sleep angry or sleeping on an argument is easier said than done. A study published in the Journal Nature Communications found that when you sleep apart after a fight, your brain stores away negative experiences so that they are harder to forget. If you sleep feeling angry or upset, there’s a high chance you’ll wake up angry.
Instead of ruminating on negative thoughts throughout the night, you should try to address any concerns and worries at a set time during the day when you’re feeling fresh and less irritable. That way, you won’t be borrowing time from your 8 hours of much-deserved shuteye.
How to Sleep After an Argument
Most of the time, the repercussions of an argument are worse than the fight itself. Most of us spend hours overanalyzing our partner’s words, focusing too much on being right, not knowing what to do next.
By focusing extensively on negative thoughts and the events that occurred during the night, you’re not only putting yourself at risk of feeling groggy in the morning – you’re also preventing yourself from being able to think clearly and productively about your concerns.
But it’s 3 a.m. now, and you’ve finally taken a step back and have decided to sleep. The only issue now is that your racing thoughts will not allow it. Here are some of our top tactics for relieving your stress and anxiety, and allowing you to sleep restfully at night.
Acknowledge Your Worries
You’ve had an enervating argument with your partner, and now, your laundry list of troubling thoughts isn’t helping you to fall asleep. Your first step to having a few restful hours of sleep is to recognize when you are worrying. While it is obvious what’s troubling you in this situation, it helps to catch the underlying signs of your stress.
For example, you may have a negative trail of thoughts due to that person’s actions or words. Or you may show physical signs, such as muscle tension, in the form of clenching your jaw, grinding your teeth, back and shoulder tension, and headaches. Other tell-tale signs of stress in bed include a racing heartbeat, shallow breathing, and tossing and turning.
When you notice any of these symptoms, remind yourself that there is nothing positive to gain from this behavior. Your job right now is to sleep. Staying up and waking up without any energy to spare isn’t going to help you, your work the next day, or your relationship.
Stress Style During a Fight
There are moments when your partner may say or do something that will trigger an emotion in you and keep you up at night. Understand that your body’s chemistry is evolutionarily designed to make you feel more alert during periods of stress. This is what helps you power through strenuous workouts or to meet tight deadlines.
If you find yourself being emotional, disengage from the fight, and take some time off so that both of you can calm down and reflect on what happened. Note that not all of us react to stress the same way. Therefore, it helps to determine your stress style, which is your way of reacting to troubling situations. During a stressful event, we quickly go into our “fight or flight” mode, where we either get ready to defend ourselves or flee the scene. In a fight, you may be the one who:
- Feels sad and becomes withdrawn, or
- Gets agitated, mad, or angry
Understanding your stress response can help you to use the correct technique to simmer down during the heat of the moment, thereby immediately abating your negative thoughts about the argument.
If You Feel Sad
If you feel that you’re the type who feels rejected, sad, upset, or tearful, calming techniques may not necessarily work for you. Instead, you should find tactics that will bring in more positive energy, such as:
- Happy music
- Petting your fur baby
- Sipping on some peppermint tea
- A shower
- Deep breathing. This will increase the oxygen flowing to your body and your brain, giving you a surge of positive energy
- Writing in your journal, or reading your favorite book.
If You Feel Angry
On the other hand, if you find yourself slamming doors, banging on objects, or stomping, you’ll best respond to calming techniques that will quiet your mind, such as:
- Deep belly breaths. Shallow breathing, hyperventilation, and holding your breath are all characteristic of how people respond to stressful events when they’re agitated. Taking a few deep breaths, through your nose, and out through your mouth can help calm you
- Listening to calming music
- Closing your eyes and imagine being in a serene location that makes you feel calm and peaceful. This can be near a beach or a lake, or your favorite place growing up
- Listening to rain sounds on YouTube. Or better yet, search for music with rain sounds
- Light your favorite candles or sniff some lavender essential oil
- Drinking a cup of warm herbal tea
- Taking a warm bath
- Petting your dog or cat
- Listening to guided meditation. The Headspace app is a great place to start
Try practicing these techniques before conflict arises. This makes them more effective, and over time, they feel more second nature to you. Therefore, next time you find yourself getting into fight or flight mode, quickly entering a calm and relaxed state will allow you to have a more productive conversation – helping you and your partner convey your ideas more freely.
Set Aside Time to Worry
According to the Sleep Health Foundation, most individuals find it beneficial to set aside time during the day to address their worries and plan possible solutions. Having a set time, when you’re free, ensures that you can give your thoughts undivided attention. Therefore, you don’t end up taking time away from your sleep by contemplating them subconsciously.
It also helps to have a journal on your nightstand so that you can write your concerns and can deal with them proactively the next day. When you write something on a piece of paper, you’re making a solid statement. In this case, writing your thoughts will help you deal with them in the morning, and help to ease some of your stress.
Listen to Relaxing Music
Listening to music and sounds of nature is an incredibly effective stress buster. If you’re looking for something calming, try searching for nature sounds, such as sounds of the rain, birds, a fountain, or waves.
When you’re finding it difficult to fall asleep, turn on your choice of relaxing music and place all your focus on it. This will help to distract you from troubling thoughts and help you fall asleep faster.
It may take some practice, but don’t give yourself a hard time if you aren’t able to keep your mind away from your thoughts. Take a few deep breaths and start over.
While this may sound like a new genre of music, binaural beats are an exciting and incredibly fascinating piece of technology that uses the responsiveness of your brain to sound and puts you in a state of deep relaxation. The technique combines two slightly different frequencies of sound and creates a perception of one new frequency.
The idea behind binaural beats is that when the brain is exposed to two separate frequencies in each ear, it perceives it as one and tunes to this new frequency. These frequencies are often accompanied by a relaxing background sound or music. What’s great about this technique is that you can try it right away. Just grab your earphones and either download a binaural beat app or search for “binaural beats for sleep” on YouTube.
So how do these sound frequencies relax your mind, de-stress you, and put you sleep? Binaural beats are designed to change your brain’s extent of arousal. Listening to these sound waves slows down your brain activity – thereby, lowering your anxiety and helping you enjoy deep sleep for much longer.
Also, binaural beats may have an impact on hormones that play a role in your sleep. These include:
- Melatonin: Our natural sleep hormone.
- Cortisol: A hormone responsible for alertness. High cortisol levels are associated with chronic stress and insomnia.
- DHEA: A master hormone that controls other hormones. DHEA suppresses cortisol, thereby helping you maintain a normal circadian rhythm.
According to research conducted by a previous president of the American Board of Anti-Aging Medicine, Dr. Vincent Giampapa, M.D, an average of 97% of the participants showed an increase in melatonin levels after listening to binaural beats. Furthermore, 70% of the participants experienced a drop in their cortisol levels, and 68% showed increased DHEA levels.
Practice Deep Breathing
It’s also crucial that you practice deep breathing before you sleep – especially when you’re stressed. Many of us take shallow breaths when we are anxious. This reduces the flow of oxygen to your brain and other vital functions, making your emotions feel worse.
Deep breathing directly counters the impact of stress on your brain and body. To perform a deep breathing exercise, breathe in slowly through your nose, and hold for a few seconds. Breathe out slowly through your mouth and notice the sensations in your body. Pay attention to how your belly expands and recoils as you breathe.
Change Your Scenery
If you feel especially alert following your argument, try getting out of bed and going into another room with dim lighting. Now, perform a quiet and relaxing activity for 10-20 minutes. Think about a relaxing technique that has worked for you in the past. Some relaxing activities you can try in a different setting include:
- Sitting quietly in a comfortable position until you feel sleepy.
- Listening to some calming music.
- Reading a good book. Just keep away from crime and thriller.
- Lighting a scented candle or turning on an essential oil diffuser.
- Trying a few relaxing yoga poses, such as standing forward fold, reclining bound angle pose, supine twist, reclining hand to the big toe, and corpse pose.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This is an effective tool for countering the effects of stress and anxiety. It’s especially beneficial for individuals who have insomnia, or having trouble falling asleep due to negative thoughts.
Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing your muscles and then releasing them to encourage these muscles to enter a relaxed state. Here’s how it works:
- Inhale, contracting one muscle group, such as your upper thighs, for 5 to 10 seconds. Next, exhale and abruptly release that muscle group, relieving all its tension.
- Allow 10 to 20 seconds to relax your body and then move on to the next muscle group, such as your buttocks.
- Pay attention to the different sensations in your body as you relax each muscle group. Imagery can be especially useful while releasing tension. For example, imagine the stressful feelings as a glowing ball of energy, flowing out and leaving your body as you relax your muscles.
- Work your way up your body slowly in the same manner.
Keep Away from Stimulants
If you’ve already had a stressful night and you foresee another stressful day tomorrow, try restricting your intake of caffeine and alcohol. Your best bet would be to avoid the two at least four hours before bedtime as they can make it more difficult for you to relax your mind and body.
While alcohol may help you fall asleep, it suppresses your breathing and inhibits rapid eye movement or REM sleep. Alcohol interrupts your natural circadian rhythm, resulting in more sleepless nights.
If you notice that you have trouble falling asleep due to stress on a regular basis, make sure you discuss your concerns with your therapist or doctor to receive appropriate treatment.
How to Heal a Damaged Relationship
During a fight, there’s nothing more troubling than being wrong. So, you’ll drag the argument for much longer only to find that it doesn’t matter who’s right or who’s wrong.
You’ve had a good night’s sleep and now feel it’s time to discuss your concerns. The key to making amends is meeting in the middle with your SO. It’s critical that you step into your partner’s shoes and see their side, and be understanding of their feelings.
Understand that a big fight doesn’t necessarily mean a broken relationship. There are many ways you can get past an argument, and the best tips in this space are the ones that aren’t hard to follow. You need to be open to listening to the other perspective and be prepared to compromise.
With that in mind, here are some expert-approved tips that will help you improve your relationship with your partner, and be more productive during arguments:
Next time you have a heated discussion with your partner, take steps to stop it from boiling into an argument in the first place. For starters, listen to what your partner is saying.
Most conflicts arise from misconceptions and miscommunications. To prevent yourself from having the wrong end of the stick about what the other person is saying, try understanding their perspective and be sure they know that you understand. Disagreeing with someone should not necessarily result in an argument.
Silence is powerful in this scenario. If your partner has something to share, avoid confronting, and listen to their point of view before suggesting anything further. It’s also incredibly important to understand that it is okay to agree or disagree with something and that there isn’t an answer that is right or wrong.
Be Honest With Yourself
As your argument worsens, it can be extremely challenging to see where the other person is coming from. Many of us find ourselves so focused on our side of the argument, that it blinds us from the facts.
One of the critical steps to cool down after a big fight is being honest with yourself about what happened. Slow down, get some space if you have to, and try thinking clearly about the argument, not just your version of it. It can be difficult to be unbiased, but focusing on the facts alone can help you get past a fight much faster.
Don’t Avoid Your Partner
Although big fights do ask for some space between you and your partner, it is crucial that you don’t avoid your partner in the process.
Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes people make following a fight is building a stone wall. While it is okay to give yourself some time, you should avoid brushing them off entirely or ignoring them as it may give them the impression that you’re trying to punish them. This can result in your partner holding back when they want to share their feelings with you about something in the future.
Instead of ignoring them or giving them the silent treatment, make a calm request for some space, just for a few hours or a day, and that if things aren’t fine after that, you can discuss further.
It’s Not About Who is Right
Let’s build on the earlier point where we determined that being honest with ourselves can prevent an argument from getting worse.
If you’re looking to building a strong relationship with your partner, it is crucial to avoid parting company with the idea of always wanting to be right – especially during an argument. Whether you believe you were correct about the issues or not, it is essential to understand how your partner feels about the events that just occurred. One can be wrong about facts, but they can never be wrong about how their partner feels.
Don’t Use Their Words Against Them
Most individuals who make lists during an argument are never able to tell the other person what is bothering them at that moment.
Therefore, if your partner says something that bothers you, let them know their words are troubling you. If you’re still annoyed by those words the next day, give yourself some space before approaching your partner too soon.
Continually bringing up an argument can cause you and your partner to end up in a vicious cycle, with no solutions.
Don’t Just Say You’re Sorry
Instead of asking your partner to leave you alone so that you can do something else, try sincerely apologizing with an explanation regarding what you’re talking about. Be sure to add another part explaining how and why you won’t make a mistake again in the future.
Try a Gentle Touch
In the middle of a fight, you may find that your partner responds more openly and calmly if you touch them kindly, as a means of relaxing the two of you. This can be a gentle touch on the hand or a hug.
However, if your partner resists touching during uncomfortable situations like these, you may find it best to avoid this strategy altogether.
Avoid Making Excuses
There are hundreds of factors that can be blamed for causing an argument – a rough day at work, not enough sleep the previous nights, a headache, tight deadlines… the list goes on.
In fact, a study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, shows that couples who aren’t able to get enough sleep are more likely to engage in arguments.
Whatever the reason is for your current mood, blaming something else isn’t fair to your partner. Information is a critical aspect of fights. If you’re sad, hurt, angry, or upset, let your partner know. This will help your partner understand that you may be more irritable in certain situations – such as after you get home from work. If you’re returning home after a tough day, it helps to let your partner know beforehand so that they can be more prepared.
Steer Clear of Personal Criticisms
Fights are about facts. Therefore, there are certain habits you may be better off not taking part in while fighting, such as throwing around criticisms that may be too personal. For example, calling a person dumb isn’t going to make your argument more productive. Other habits most couples get into but should avoid like the plague, including being defensive, stonewalling, and avoiding the topic altogether.
Even if your mind is still revolving around the fight, it doesn’t mean you should mutter anything hurtful. Avoid calling a person a name because it makes it difficult for you and the other person to recover from that.
For example, if you had a fight about your budget for your vacation, avoid calling your partner cheap while going through your friend’s Instagram photos from their recent vacation.
Name-calling is a surefire way of starting a whirlwind of never-ending insults. Instead of making a mistake that you’ll regret later, ask your partner to talk about what’s bothering them after you’ve both calmed down.
If You’re Not Feeling It, Don’t Have Makeup Sex
Once you’ve both apologized and have meant it, your partner may want to have sex. However, you may not be in the mood.
Understand that this doesn’t mean that your partner doesn’t realize you both had a serious argument. Most men feel the need to have sex to feel close.
If this is the last thing on your mind right now, let him know kindly. Hug your partner and tell him you’d love to have sex tomorrow, instead of rolling over and declining without offering an explanation.
Don’t Focus on the Cause of the Fight
Spend your energy on a solution, not what caused the problem – especially when the issue is solved. Avoid replaying your partner’s mistakes in your head and focus on enjoying the rest of the evening.
Understand that what makes a good fight different from a bad white is whether you’ve both found a solution to the problem being faced. However, if you notice your partner is consistently making these mistakes, ask your partner about what’s going on in a non-judgmental way instead of giving them a “Not again!”
Avoid Saying That You Didn’t Mean it
This is like using an eraser on permanent ink. Not only does this make one feel that they can get away with calling them names next time they fight, but it also exacerbates the situation. Your partner might say “Yes, you did!” and you both may end up going back on forth on who said what and whether they meant it.
Saying you didn’t mean something keeps you in the past and distracts you from working out a solution that will prevent any arguments over the current situation in the future. If your partner says they didn’t mean it, you can let them know that you believe them, but it made you feel hurt or disappointed. Also, it will also help to ask them how you would like them to behave in case you have a fight over the same matter in the future.
Don’t Give Yourself a Hard Time
While having no fights may sound like an ideal relationship for you, the reality is that all of us want partners who are committed. Fighting is a sign that both parties are still working things out, which is a positive factor.
When some people say they don’t fight anymore, it doesn’t mean they’ve stopped disagreeing. It probably means they’re letting their relationship go. This is often the case before they find an affair or they leave. Therefore, take heart in knowing that you two care enough to solve an issue, even if it involves some disagreements.
Cut the But
Consider removing the word “but” from your sentences. Sometimes, we use the word but to show that we still stand by our original opinion on the issue. Try nixing the word entirely from your vocabulary, especially when you’re trying to come up with a solution during an argument.
According to a study conducted by Harvard, Yale, and MIT professors, when two people are seated on a soft, comfortable, and cushioned surface, they’re more open about the other person’s words and thus, can have productive arguments and reach a solution much faster.
The converse is also true. The researchers found that when people sat in a hard wooden chair, they felt more rigid and inflexible, physically and emotionally when it comes to reaching a possible solution.
Find Common Ground
Try finding common ground with your partner that successfully makes both of you feel better at the end of the argument. Try exchanging information until both of you reach that “Aha!” moment, where the solution functions well for both individuals.
Make a Happy Memory
After your conflict has been resolved, try making a positive memory out of it. Try walking to your favorite ice cream place or coffee shop, checking out a new hiking trail, or having dinner in a new restaurant you’ve both been itching to try.
Understand that sometimes you fight hard because both of you care more. After making a positive memory, you’ll notice that the rest of the week doesn’t become the week you had your big fight. You’ve instantly transformed it into the week you visited that new place and had a lot of laughs and good memories in.
This is why couples going to sleep at the same time is important.