Here’s a fresh thought for fixing or just strengthening your marriage this year: try improving your sleep quality. Really? Yes, really. In this episode of our marriage podcast, we interview Shawn Stevens. He is a best-selling author and the creator of the Model Health Show, currently the #1 Nutrition and Fitness podcast in the world on iTunes. [youtube id=”zAM6iPk53m8″]

Watch the video for the full interview.

I invited Shawn for an interview because I wanted him to help us understand how we can take care of our marriages by taking care of our sleep. As Shawn says at the start, “When you’re tired, your best friend can look like your worst enemy!”

The Case For Sleep

In the interview, we discuss various research articles that identify the impact of reduced sleep. The bottom line is, when you don’t get enough sleep, you limit your brain’s ability to help you relate to others. Sleep is the only state we experience that helps to rebuild our bodies and minds. Yet, it’s often the first thing we reduce when we begin to feel overloaded. Ironically, we reduce one part of our daily lives we need the most. Reduced sleep affects men and women different. For men, poor sleep predicts more negative ratings of spousal interactions the next day. For women, negative daytime interactions take away from sleep that night. You can imagine how quickly a destructive cycle can form from this interaction. Clearly, there is a well-established link between relationship quality and sleep quality.

Sleep and Stress

Sleep is also an important part of stress regulation. Marriage is a great source of stress relief but Shawn identifies how critical sleep is as part of managing stress. But the challenge is that stress makes for poor sleep and poor sleep makes for more feelings of stress. How does a person break out of this cycle?

Strategies for Improving Sleep Quality

One of the critical take-home lessons from this interview is the importance of exercising in the morning. This has a huge impact on the amount of time spent in the deepest (and most restorative) stage of sleep. Exercising at night, or late in the evening, is counterproductive to being healthy. You might be exercising, but you’re eroding the restorative potential of your sleep. Another critical take away is to observe a caffeine curfew. Caffeine has a half-life of about eight hours (depending on your metabolism). Consequently, Shawn’s recommendation is that there be no caffeine intake after 2 PM in the afternoon. Intake after that time is going to impact your body’s ability to get the quality of sleep it needs. Shawn also notes the importance of moderating body temperature. Running our house too warm, especially at nights in the bedroom, takes away from sleep quality. The research recommends running one’s bedroom temperature between 60 to 68 F (16 to 20 C) is ideal. There’s a side-benefit to a cooler room: more cuddling! That can’t but help the marriage too, right? Finally, we discuss the impact of sexuality on our sleep quality. The body releases a wonderful cocktail of hormones following orgasm with one’s spouse. Those hormones promote deeper and more restful sleep as well as reducing the impact of stress on our bodies.

More from Shawn Stevenson

Be sure to check out Shawn’s website, and podcast to learn more about how you can improve your health and fitness. As well, be sure to pick up a copy of Shawn’s book, Sleep Smarter: 21 Proven Tips to Sleep Your Way To a Better Body, Better Health and Bigger Success. I have read his book and highly recommend it. It is very digestible, a great read, and really takes you through many actionable ways that you can start improving your sleep tonight.