Dealing with divorce: Health effects of post-divorce sleep loss

A University of Arizona study has found that extended sleep problems after a divorce can lead to hypertension.

Extended lack of sleep could lead to hypertension and other health problems

It will probably come as no surprise to most people that a divorce often results in lack of sleep for ex-spouses. However, a new study from the University of Arizona is warning that if those sleep problems continue for an extended period of time they could lead to more serious health issues in the future, according to the Daily Mail. The study is one of the few that has tried to establish why there seems to be a connection between divorce and certain health problems.

Recently divorced participants

The University of Arizona study took 138 participants who had separated or divorced their partner about 16 weeks prior to the beginning of the study. Using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, researchers asked participants to record their quality of sleep over a nearly eight-month period. The researchers took into consideration such factors as tossing and turning, trouble falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night, and snoring. During lab visits, participants also had their blood pressure measured.

The study found that there was a delayed effect on blood pressure, meaning that, although blood pressure wasn't observed to be effected by sleep loss in the lab, such sleep loss did contribute to high blood pressure in later visits.

Short-term sleep loss normal

According to PsychCentral, recently divorced spouses who have been having trouble sleeping probably don't need to worry about any sleep loss just yet. The study's authors noted that sleep loss that lasts for less than 10 weeks doesn't seem to have any negative effect on future blood pressure. After 10 weeks or more, however, that sleep loss may be leading to some serious health problems.

While sleep loss is fairly normal following a divorce, researchers suggest that divorcees who have been suffering from long-term sleep loss seek out cognitive behavior therapy. Additionally, people may want to make changes to their daily routine or find ways to relax before going to bed in order to fight against sleep problems.

Dealing with divorce

As the above study shows, going through a divorce is one of the most difficult periods that many people will have to contend with. While it is no surprise that divorce can leave former spouses feeling emotionally drained, it's important not to forget that one's health still needs to be taken care of following the end of a relationship.

One way to make the divorce process less stressful is by consulting with an experienced family law attorney throughout the process. While many people are tempted to represent themselves during a divorce, to help ensure a smooth and efficient process divorcees should rely on qualified legal representation.

Keywords: divorce, sleep loss, health, dealing with divorce