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Is it better to sleep alone or accompanied? The answer, of course, may depend on many factors, especially if one has had company with a tendency to snore or to take possession of the sheets. But if we attend only to the quality of sleep, there is bad news for singles. A new study conducted by German researchers concludes that it is better to share the bed . The sleep phase of rapid eye movement (REM) increases and is interrupted less frequently in couples that sleep together compared with when they do individually. And this is important, because this phase is involved in the processes of learning and memory , and in the regulation of emotions.
Until now, studies in this regard have been scarce and contradictory. The majority have been limited to comparing the dream shared with the individual by measuring only the movements of the body. However, Henning Johannes Drews Center Psychiatry Integrative (ZIP) and his colleagues have gone beyond these limitations to assess the architecture of sleep in couples.
The researchers observed twelve couples of young, healthy and heterosexual-who spent four nights in the sleep laboratory. Measured parameters of sleep both in the presence and in the absence of the couple using polysomnography simultaneous dual, which is a “very accurate method, detailed and comprehensive to capture the dream on many levels, from brain waves to movements, breathing, muscle tension, movements, heart activity,” says Drews. In addition, participants completed questionnaires designed to measure the characteristics of the relationship (for example, duration, degree of passionate love, depth, etc)
The results showed that REM sleep was best in individuals when they slept as a couple that when they were alone. This finding is particularly relevant because the REM sleep, which is associated with vivid dreams, has been linked with the regulation of emotion , the consolidation of memory, social interactions, and creative problem solving .
The team also discovered that couples synchronize their sleep patterns when they sleep together. This synchronization, which is not linked to the fact that couples disturb each other during the night, is positively associated with the depth of the relationship. In other words, the higher the rating the participants the importance of your relationship with your life, the stronger was the synchronization night with your partner.
Less stress, more memory
The researchers propose a positive feedback loop in which co-sleeping improves and stabilizes REM sleep, which improves our social interactions and reduces the emotional stress. Although the researchers did not measure specifically these potential effects, Drews says that “given that these are well-known effects of REM sleep, it is very likely to be observed if we analyze”.
Interestingly, the researchers found a greater movement of the limbs in couples who share a bed. However, these movements do not disrupt the architecture of sleep, that remains unchanged. “You could say that, while his body is a bit of a rebel when you lie down with someone, your brain is not,” says the researcher. In his opinion, sleeping with a partner “could actually give you an extra boost with regards to your mental health, your memory and your creative skills to solve problems”.
Although the results are promising, there are still many questions that need answering, as if these effects of sleep-sharing partner is also present in a sample more diverse, for example between couples, elderly or suffering some disease.
To learn more: why do we sleep?