Study: Sleep Disturbances Cause Health Risks During Divorce

  • Interrupted sleep due to stress can create unhealthy sleep patterns.
  • Studies have shown those experiencing a divorce are at risk for high blood pressure, due to disrupted sleeping patterns.
  • Children of divorce have their sleeping patterns affected negatively.

"There is a cultural perception in today’s society that oversleeping is shameful or something one should feel guilt over. It is untrue."

For employed individuals with children between the ages of 25 to 54, 7.8 hours of the day is spent sleeping, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Sleep allows us the opportunity to recharge and is an essential part of daily productivity. However, during a divorce, the sleep patterns find themselves inevitably altered by the physical and mental toll of the experience.

Losing sleep

The health hazards regarding interrupted sleeping habits are well-documented. Your cognitive ability and attention span is negatively affected. Your ability to make new memories and remember new skills is significantly lowered.

Amyloid proteins, harmful substances in your body that are linked to Alzheimer’s disease, get removed from your brain during an uninterrupted good night’s sleep, so when that is not achieved, imaging of the brain reveals a build-up of these proteins. Negative emotions also are amplified throughout the day when a good night’s sleep is achieved, and the risk of depression is significantly lowered.

However, during a divorce, the stresses and mental anguish can manifest themselves in many facets of one’s life. These difficult moments in one’s life can trigger habits in the way we live our lives, the food we eat, the activities that we participate in, and our sleeping patterns.

According to Divorce Detox, a service to help improve the health of those experiencing a divorce, two types of disrupted sleep patterns can manifest during the extreme stresses of divorce: excessive sleep and a lack of sleep. During a divorce, the two extremes can commonly surface during the same period of time and sometimes, even alternate. Seeking help for these conditions before chronic insomnia manifests will help protect and improve your health during this trying time.

Processing stress

There is a cultural perception in today’s society that oversleeping is shameful or something one should feel guilt over. It is untrue. During a divorce, the extreme stress will force the body to repair and recover, and sleep is the medium for the recuperation. According to the service, it’s similar to breathing, in that, your body naturally breathes without thinking about it. Similarly, the recovery of your body through sleep is an exercise done without thinking or consciously taking action to do so.

Due to the systematic nature of processing stress, the stresses of divorce can lead to your body doing more work while you sleep than normal, according to Everyday Health. REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement or dream sleep) is when we process emotion-based information. Sleep also is when we shut down our sympathetic system, or our fight-or-flight mentality. The Cortisol system is at its lowest during sleep, creating lowered defenses and more work for our bodies.

Health risks

Additionally, there are other health risks involved from the sleep problems that occur during a divorce. According to research at the University of Arizona, there is growing evidence that link the sleep disturbances that occur during a divorce to high blood pressure.

A case study looked at 138 individuals who had separated or divorced 16 weeks before the start of the study, and they were to report their quality of sleep over a seven-and-a-half month period. Blood pressure also was measured.

The results showed that the longer that sleep issues persisted, the more likely those problems were to have a negative effect on blood pressure. The participants showed increased systolic and diastolic blood pressure, caused by the extreme stresses disturbing their sleeping patterns.

Systolic blood pressure is the top blood pressure number and measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. Diastolic blood pressure is the bottom number and measures the pressure in the arteries between heart beats. The increase in both numbers could create future cardiac problems, if left untreated.

Similar research was found and published in the Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, where they found that men are more likely to experience higher blood pressure due to disturbed sleeping habits while going through a divorce.

For the kids

The spouses are not the only one’s suffering in their sleep over the divorce experience. In addition, children of divorce experience difficulties regarding their sleeping patterns during this stressful time, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Children are creatures of habit, who need a routine in order to grow. The stresses of custody and new environments create a disturbance in their routine that may cause additional problems depending on the child’s age. In developmental stages, the child may regress into thumb-sucking or bedwetting.

Older children have a different type of behavioral issues that might manifest in their sleeping patterns. They may act defiant, withdrawn, or overeager to please during their daily lives. At night, sleep disturbances like oversleeping or insomnia can surface, due to the emotional stresses of divorce and custody disputes.

The physical, mental, and emotional difficulties of divorce are generally unavoidable and are known to affect many facets of one’s life. Taking the time to rest from these stresses and worries can offer a calming moment amid the storm of one’s life. Letting the difficulties of the divorce experience affect one’s relationship with sleep allows for no restful outlet to be safe. Reestablishing one’s rest and relationship with sleep promotes a better piece of mind and restful attitude, even during the most difficult of times.

End of Content Icon

Leave a Reply