Partners of insomniacs offering advice like sipping on alcohol or reading before bed are likely making their spouse’s sleep issues worse, experts say.
New research reveals almost three quarters of partners of insomniacs give opposite advice to what specialists recommend when it comes to ‘sleep opportunity’.
Sharing a bed was uncovered to play a large role in an insomniac’s getting-to-sleep process, with research delving into just how much a partner can come into play.
Of the 60 per cent of Australians who share a bed, around a third of them have trouble sleeping, according to lead researcher Alix Mellor of Monash University’s Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences.
‘When it comes to treating insomnia, the focus is on the individual, but we’re learning that bed partners can play a big role,’ Dr Mellor told Sydney Morning Herald.
Dr Mellor warns encouraging tired spouses to go to bed early or wake up late should be avoided, as its not actually an optimal way to achieve more sleep.
‘Most people think if you increase your sleep opportunity – that is, the time that you spend in bed – that’s a good thing, but the research shows you should only be in bed when you’re just going to sleep, so people are giving the wrong advice,’ she said.
A trial is currently underway as researchers assess the behaviours of 44 couples.
So far the study showed nearly half of participants had encouraged their insomniac partners to engage in pre-sleep activities like watching TV and reading a book.
More than 30 per cent suggested their partner have have naps, drink coffee and reduce activities during the day, while 16 per cent told them to sip an alcoholic drink.
‘Some people might say, “have a glass of wine before bed, I noticed it makes me a bit tired”. But again, really bad advice, it may help them to get to sleep, but it does not help them stay asleep.’
Dr Mellor said it was vital the bed be reserved for sleep and sex only, with it not to be used to watch TV or use a mobile phone.
All of the participants admitted they avoided social engagements at least once in the past three months out of consideration of their partner’s sleep issues.
Results from the research don’t yet conclusively suggest partners can be used to treat insomnia, but they have been dubbed useful in addressing behaviour.