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Are marital problems keeping you up at night?

Minneapolis area residents have likely heard about the negative physical and mental health effects of having too much stress can have on one's life. From meditation and exercise to prescription medications and cognitive therapies, the news is full of stories about how to lower stress levels.

Unfortunately, some stressors in life are unavoidable. For example, a loved one's illness or death or poor economic conditions are largely out of one's control. For many, another major source of stress involves familial relationships and in particular one's relationship with a spouse.

A recent study that was conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona details the damaging health effects that may result when an individual is essentially too stressed to sleep. While everyone experiences the odd night of poor sleep or bout of insomnia, when sleep problems persist for weeks or months it can have serious repercussions on one’s health.

For the study, researchers specifically looked at individuals who were going through the divorce process. If sustained over time, those individuals who were so upset that they were literally unable to sleep, were more likely to develop adverse health conditions like depression and high blood pressure. What's more, elevations in blood pressure were "associated with sleep problems three months earlier," further proving the negative and cumulative effects of not getting enough sleep.

While researchers for this study chose to examine individuals going through the divorce process, there are likely many other challenging life situations that could result in similar findings. Additionally, it's likely that many individuals who are living in unhappy marriages also have elevated stress levels and sleep disturbances related to their bad relationships.

There's no doubt that for many the divorce process can be challenging. However, staying in an unhappy marriage is also challenging and, if studied, would likely also be tied to increased levels of depression and elevated blood pressure. While difficult, taking steps to end a bad marriage and file for divorce may be one of the best things an individual can do to find happiness and peace and to promote long-term health.

For individuals who are struggling with a divorce, it's important to find support. In some cases, reaching out to a professional therapist may be advisable.

Source: The HealthSite.com, "How losing sleep over divorce might kill you," Jan. 5, 2015

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