In my book “Sharing the Covers: Every Couple’s Guide to Better Sleep,” I explore the interconnectedness between relationship quality, sleep quality, and various aspects of health. A key take-away is that working to bolster your sleep can bolster your relationship quality, and vice versa, and individually or collectively, they can both bolster your health. On the other hand, neglecting either your sleep or your relationship can lead to a slippery slope towards poor health.
As the world begins to re-open post-pandemic, and people resume commuting, working outside the home, and spending less time with their families, there is the potential that couples may feel a sense of disconnection from each other. After all, for all the challenges that came with being stuck at home, it did provide a whole lot of extra quality time with partners and families. Finding simple strategies to connect with your partner could be especially important now—and for many, bedtime is a great opportunity to do so. Research shows that couples who talk about their personal thoughts and feelings with their partner experience better sleep quality. That makes sense, as such open and honest sharing of feelings is a hallmark of a healthy relationship.
To help you build a habit around that behavior, I’d like to offer a simple technique you can bring to your shared bed every night. (And if you are one of the increasing number of couples who choose not to share a bed with your partner, you can still come together to have this moment together, before you go your separate ways for the night). After all, for many couples, it’s the time before falling asleep that is most important for building and sustaining the relational bond.
The practice is called High, Low, Compliment, and it really is simple. You and your partner lie down together and take turns sharing what you felt was the highest point in the day, the lowest point in the day, and then you give your partner a compliment. The highs or lows needn’t necessarily be about your relationship, but they might be, and this is a time to discuss such feelings openly and honestly. This isn’t about starting a fight. It’s simply about sharing how you felt during the day. For the compliment, challenge yourself to find something different each day. Perhaps you noticed something your partner did particularly well. Or perhaps you just want to share something you enjoy about them. In relationships, especially long-term ones, we often say I love you, but we don’t often say why. This is your opportunity to identify one of the many little reasons why.
High. Low. Compliment. Do this every night for a week. If you find after a few nights that having such discussions before bed leads either one of you to become upset or anxious or veering towards conflict, then that’s probably a good sign to practice this exercise at a different time of day. Find the time that works best for both of you. At the end of the week, check in with each other to see how it feels. If you want, keep the practice for the long haul. It might just make you happier, healthier, and more rested. And like I said, it’s a great way to stay connected, especially as we return to normal.
Wendy Troxel is a senior behavioral and social scientist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation and author of “Sharing the Covers; Every Couple’s Guide to Better Sleep.”