How many nights have you found yourself blinking up at the ceiling and wondering why you can’t seem to sleep? Could something be bothering you? If it’s not work or love problems that are keeping you awake, then it could be your family. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, worrying about family matters may be causing your sleeping problems.

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Using self-reported data from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States, researchers analyzed the connection between sleeping problems, frequency of contact with family outside the home, social support, and strained relationships. They found out that people who often have communication with their family members--especially the difficult ones--are more likely to have daily or weekly sleeping problems than those who don’t have such frequent contact.

"In particular, we considered who we are interacting with during the day, before sleep, and when we first wake up," says Jennifer Ailshire, PhD, a sociologist and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Southern California. She is also a co-author of the study. "Social relationships tend to benefit health and wellbeing, but having demanding family relationships may not be so good for us or our sleep."

While similar studies have been done in the past, this is supposedly one of the first studies to focus the attention on family members who don’t live with the participants. "Sleep is highly sensitive to what’s going on in our daily lives, including our interactions with others," says Ailshire. "But our sleep can also be influenced by relationships with other family members who do not live with us."

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One way to get better rest at night is to repair the strained relationship. However, if you don't feel a reconciliation will happen at the moment, the research suggests trying to minimize its effect on you. If frequent contact with a difficult family member is getting on your nerves, lessen your interaction with them--at least, until you finally get a good night’s sleep.


(Photo by Kristina via Flickr Creative Commons)

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