Anxiety predicts dyadic sleep characteristics in couples experiencing insomnia but not in couples without sleep disorders

Elizabeth M. Walters, Andrew JK Phillips, Kellie Hamill, Peter J Norton, Sean PA Drummond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Background: Anxiety and depression are commonly comorbid with sleep problems. Despite growing acknowledgement that bedpartners are important determinants of sleep quality, few studies have explored mental health as a risk factor for disrupted sleep of the bedpartner. We examined whether anxiety or depression symptoms predicted an individual's sleep or their bedpartner's sleep, in couples where one partner experienced insomnia and in couples without sleep disorders. Methods: Fifty-two bed-sharing couples where one individual had insomnia (“Patient”), and 55 non-sleep-disordered couples completed the Beck Anxiety Inventory, Patient Health Questionnaire-9, and Insomnia Severity Index (ISI). Sleep was monitored for seven nights. Actor-Partner Interdependence Models assessed whether anxiety or depression symptoms predicted individual or dyadic sleep (wake transmission). Results: Greater anxiety symptoms predicted increased vulnerability to being woken by their bedpartner, as well as increased frequency of waking their bedpartner up during the night in Patients with insomnia, but not in non-sleep-disordered couples. Neither anxiety nor depression symptoms predicted an individual's or their bedpartner's sleep efficiency in either subsample. However, ISI was positively predicted by own anxiety and depression symptoms for Patients with insomnia and in non-sleep-disordered couples. Limitations: The non-sleep-disordered subsample experienced only mild symptoms of anxiety and depression, potentially reducing predictive power. Conclusions: Anxiety may help reveal social determinants of sleep in couples experiencing insomnia. These data underscore the importance of considering sleep, the bedpartner, and affective symptoms in mental health and sleep assessments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-130
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020


  • Anxiety
  • Couples
  • Dyad
  • Insomnia
  • Sleep disorders
  • Wake transmission

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