I’m not sure if new parents are ever really prepared for all that is in store for them. From the elation of having a baby, to the anxiety and duress that it involves, the demands on your time and attention can be overwhelming. When you include the emotional roller coaster that comes with welcoming a new member to the family, the experience can pretty much put a damper on many of the things that you enjoyed in life prior to having a baby, from sex and eating, to something as basic as getting enough sleep. This, in turn, can place an undue amount of strain on even the strongest of relationships.

In order to maintain a healthy interaction with your significant other, it is important, within reason, to attend to what makes the two of you click. Nowhere is this more important than being adequately rested. In fact, a new study is shedding light on just how important getting enough sleep is, though most parents are already painfully aware of this fact. In the study in question, 22 sets of new parents with an average age of 27.6 years were interviewed. The families were followed over the course of seven weeks after their children were born.

During that period, the actual time that the parents slept as well as their level of sleep efficiency was objectively monitored by way of wrist actigraphy, which is a device worn on the wrist that keeps track physical movement during sleep. In the morning, subjects also subjectively reported on the quality and degree of sleep for themselves and their partners. This information was then examined in conjunction with the degree of satisfaction that the new parents felt in their relationship with one another using a standard marital relationship test.

Interestingly enough, the level of marital contentment, as reported by the people involved, was strongly associated with the objectively measured (using actigraphy) amount of sleep, whereas the relationship between marital bliss and the subjective measurement of sleep satisfaction (as reported by the individuals) was not as strong.

In other words, how a person actually sleeps is not always in line with how they think they slept, and thus may have a greater role in the health of the relationship. This finding applied to both women and men.

Though the authors did not draw any conclusions regarding cause and effect, they did say that it seems logical enough to tie lost hours of sleep as a result of parenthood to a negative relationship status. With this in mind, it may be instructive for health care professionals to address this area to prospective and new parents to better prepare them for challenges that lay ahead.

This is especially true in light of the fact that when parents get along in a healthy environment, it bodes well for the family as a whole. This is because it often leads to positive parental behavior from a practical as well as emotional point of view. Thus, when people get enough rest, not only are they more likely to get along better, but they perform complex and routine tasks in a more efficient and capable manner, ensuring a stable home environment.

From a policy perspective, the findings may be grounds for employers to revise their family leave policy for new parents, allowing them, if they so choose, to spend more time at home adjusting to their new lives and more importantly, getting enough rest.

If you are a new parent, take the time to work out your schedules to ensure that you get the rest that you need. Parenting is the ultimate endurance test, so don’t take sleep for granted. If you have questions or concerns, speak with your doctor. For advice on getting enough sleep, visit the website for WebMD.com.

This post was included in the latest edition of the blog carnival Staying Young - from the Inside Out.