“Let’s sleep on it.”
Brave, possibly stupid words every man has said in the heat of an argument.
But does a little rest actually make for a better resolution? Possibly.
We asked 15 real, live, sex-having women — including several couples therapists and relationship experts — the following:
Do you believe in going to bed angry, or should arguments always be resolved before bed?
Their answers? A real wake-up call.
Angela, 30, Mental Health Therapist
I think “sleeping on” an argument can work for some couples, but not for my husband and me. We both tend to be stubborn, and challenging that is beneficial for both of us. For us, finishing an argument when it starts is best … We once got into a ridiculous fight about our mantle decor. He wanted conversation pieces, I wanted something trendy. I think if I would have gone to bed I would have thought about myself more, and gotten so wrapped up in my own reasons and excuses, it would be difficult to see his point of view the next day. Talking about it right then and there, it was easier to be flexible.
Kelsey, 26, Marketer
Like most things in life, I don’t think there can be a hard-and-fast rule about this. It depends on the situation. I might be overreacting about something and need time to think it through/calm down, in which case I’d be glad I slept on it before bringing it up with my partner. But I do think that if the argument is already started, you should finish it. Otherwise both parties are just prolonging their misery.
Dr. Brie Turns, licensed associate marriage and family therapist
Research shows that during an argument, your brain becomes “flooded” and 20 minutes is the minimal amount of time it takes to soothe that physiological response. So if the argument happens right before bed, it may be better to wait. That said, in my expert opinion, waiting until morning can often lead one or both partners to “stew” over the issue for hours and may not even be able to get a good night sleep. So if this is occurring a few nights a week, it’s time to seek professional help. There are some issues that are unsolvable problems and those that are solvable. A marriage therapist can help you determine how to manage the unsolvable problems while maintaining a healthy marriage and sex life.
Jennifer Miller, co-writer of the new novel Mr. Nice Guy
Whether you go to bed before resolving an argument depends entirely on the hour. The later into the night the fight runs, the more emotional, exhausted and incoherent both people tend to be. So trying to resolve a fight after, say 10 p.m., will likely only lead to more deeply entrenched anger/frustration. If you’re exhausted, just go to sleep! You and your significant other will have a much better shot at resolving the issue in the morning when you’re both clear-headed.
Connie Omari LPC, NCC Clinician and Owner of Tech Talk Therapy
I recommend resolving relationship arguments before you go to bed for the following three reasons: One, it provides an opportunity for you to give your partner honest feedback, because you are feeling a variety of emotions. As with all human behavior, the brain forgets things. Most couples who intend to follow up on something the next morning rarely do. Second, addressing an argument before you go to bed provides the foundation for a better night’s sleep. If you go to bed cranky and irritable, chances are you’ll wake up in the morning un-refreshed. And finally, addressing an argument before you go to bed provides the perfect recipe for the “sandwich method.” The sandwich method occurs when you say something positive, follow it by something important (i.e., your serious message) and conclude with something positive. I recommend complimenting your partner, then confronting your partner about why you are upset, and finally having an intimate night with your partner.
Patti, Talent Rep, 29
Sleep on it! I can be an asshole when I’m tired and/or drunk and my partner is the same, and we’ll never stop arguing. But if we can just go to sleep, I wake up, it’s a new day, and I don’t want to be pissed at him anymore. One caveat: we HAVE to sleep in the same room. Sleeping in a different room is reserved for couples who hate each other, in my opinion. If we get into some dumb argument we both know is about nothing, sleeping on the couch makes it seem like a much bigger deal.
Otto, 37, Professional Race Car Driver
I firmly believe in cooler minds prevailing. If that means a night’s sleep — or seven night’s sleep — so be it. Resolution comes in due time, but not always before bedtime.
Rori Sassoon, co-founder of elite matchmaking service Platinum Poire
I am a big believer in never sleeping on an argument with your partner. If you can have a night of sound sleep instead of disturbing one another or going to bed feeling sad, mad or bothered, why not express yourself? Even if you only come to a partial solution. At the end of the day I think that each partner should always: 1) Know that it’s okay to disagree and have different views, 2) Never bottle things up, and 3) Feel respected and give respect.
Parker, 25, Photographer
Yes, I believe in “sleeping on” an argument. Adults can have complex arguments that are ongoing. When they kick up, meet the disagreement with patience and the knowledge that serious relationships are a long haul, not a sprint. If you need a night or two before you’re ready to really dig in, there’s no problem with that. Just clearly express your needs: “I’m really upset about this and I want to talk more, but I need time and space to calm down and formulate my thoughts.” If your partner can’t honor that, it might be time to find a new one.
Kayla Lords, 38, writer/sexpert at JackandJillAdult.com
If an argument can be resolved with a little extra communication, go ahead and do it before bed. In the big arguments, where you fundamentally disagree, sleeping on it can give you time to calm down and get perspective on the topic. And sometimes you can never reconcile your differences … but after several hours of sleep and to calm down, you might decide it’s not worth continuing the argument, either.
Anita Chlipala, licensed therapist and owner of Relationship Reality 312
It’s a myth that a couple should never go to bed angry. Go to bed angry. You risk getting yourself and/or your partner into fight-or-flight mode, and this has disastrous consequences. It’s in this mode that a partner says and/or does hurtful things. Research shows that when a person is in fight-or-flight mode, they cannot think critically, they lose their sense of humor, cannot be empathic or see their partner’s perspective. So basically essential communication skills are NOT present when you keep fighting. It is much better to take a time out and resume the conversation when you’re both calm. If this means resume it the next day, then resume it the next day.
Sara, 24, public relations associate
The day of our wedding, we invited our friends and family to write suggestions for being married. We received many suggestions to never go to bed angry, but my aunt recommend we “sleep on” arguments and pick it up the next day when you are rested and had time to process. This was different than what we had been practicing (we lived together for over a year by this time), so we were skeptical. But by the end of our next argument, it was obvious she was right. When you stay up late to work out an argument, ensuring that you don’t go to bed angry, a couple of things happen: First, you’re tired and running on adrenaline, so it’s harder to process information and respond reasonably. Second, you wake up the next day tired and groggy because you didn’t get enough sleep. We have since practiced “sleeping on” an argument — not only does it ensure that you aren’t as tired, it also allows us time to process the information in our sleep and come to a sensible, better solution.
Kristin M. Davin, Psy.D., 55, couples therapist
It has been said and written that you should always resolve arguments before going to bed, but should you? I don’t think so. As a professional woman and a couples therapist, it’s more complicated than that. People are more complicated than that. To try and pigeonhole yourself into that corner puts unnecessary pressure on a person/couple to do just that even if they don’t have the emotional bandwidth (and many simply don’t). Also, I have worked with many couples who attempt to talk things out until the wee hours. They wake up exhausted and more depleted. Why encourage more frustration in your life?
Mary Kaarto, 60s, Author and Speaker
We rarely argue about anything, but rather, we have “discussions” about whatever the issue is, and always before going to bed. Our MO is, when we realize there’s a thorn in one or both of our sides, we calmly agree to retreat to our separate home offices (or other parts of the house) until either an agreed-upon time or until such time one of us has calmed down enough to approach the other. Vowing to stay up until the issue is fully and peacefully resolved not only helps us sleep better at night, it is a good incentive to keep focused on each other and what is best for our marriage. Our method has worked for us, not just some of the time — but every time.
Laurelei, 23, digital marketing content creator
My opinion regarding “sleeping on” a disagreement has recently changed. I’m the girlfriend that wants to talk about our life plan at 2 in the morning when he’s dozing off. That’s me. I have always felt like we needed to get it all out in the open before going to bed, or we would somehow be more distant in the morning. Or even worse, we would put aside our distances in the morning, and just pretend they didn’t exist, until they just came crawling out in the next fight. As I get older, I’m learning that not all disagreements have to be solved. We don’t have to agree on everything all the time, and sometimes it’s easier to determine if this is a big issue or a small issue in the clear light of day.