Is The Advice To Never Go To Bed Angry Actually Valid?

Conflicts and disagreements between loved ones are a natural part of life, and it's tricky to decide whether you should solve the issue in the moment or hold off until the next day. It's likely that someone in your life has told you to "never go to bed angry" — a piece of advice that has carried over generations. Though this saying has mainly been applied to romantic relationships, it definitely can apply to other relationships in your life as well. Whether you have a conflict with a roommate, family member, friend, or romantic partner, this advice has its benefits and drawbacks. 


Psychology scholars like Amie M. Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan, suggest that it's okay to go to bed angry and that "conflict may escalate if either partner is tired, stressed, hungry, or for other reasons unrelated to the conflict" (via Psychology Today). Others argue that holding in negative emotions and waiting to solve them can have long-term effects on our mental health and physical health as well. So, what is the truth? Should you or should you not go to bed angry? Let's break it down.

Everyone processes anger differently

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to solving conflicts in relationships, and we all handle our negative emotions differently. Some people feel their anger inwardly and have trouble expressing their thoughts out loud. It may feel like they are giving you the silent treatment. Other people express their anger outwardly, raising their voices and verbally expressing how they feel. In any relationship, it's important to understand that we are all different so that we can improve our communication with one another.


According to the American Psychological Association, expressing your anger in an assertive, non-aggressive way is the healthiest way to do it. If you're going to accomplish this without hurting anyone, you need to be thoughtful and articulate your precise thoughts well.  Much of the conflict people face stems from the feeling that you and your loved one are not on the same page, and one of you, or possibly both of you, is feeling misunderstood.

Anger affects your sleep

Sometimes we don't have the energy to completely solve a conflict before the sun has set, and we just want to sleep, even if we are still thinking about our stressors. It is important to recognize that anger is a natural, human response to pain and discomfort. It isn't always healthy to avoid or push this feeling down every time it shows up in our lives. When we go to sleep angry or with an unresolved issue, this can actually disrupt our sleep and make us even more irritable when we wake up. In fact, sleep and anger are very connected, as being angry often leads to poor sleep (via the Journal of Research in Personality). 


Not only does the body recharge and heal during sleep, but so do our emotions. A good night's sleep improves the ability to regulate your emotions and well-being, as seen in a study published in the journal AIMS Neuroscience. If you can't solve an issue before bed and go to sleep angry, the negative emotions you carry could be disrupting your sleep and making you feel worse in the morning. 

When should you go to bed angry?

At the same time, however, if you attempt to solve a conflict before bed and end up fighting all night, this may only make it harder to work through the conflict in the morning, when the two of you are grumpy and tired. In a perfect world, we could all solve problems with each other flawlessly and quickly, and then get a good night's sleep. Things may not always work out this way in reality. Depending on the situation, it may be more helpful to give each other space and take time to cool down before beginning to discuss the issue at hand. When we're angry, we may say hurtful things we don't mean and escalate the argument further.


Some disagreements cannot be solved before bedtime. For instance, if you and your roommate are fighting about an issue with your rent or your living space, it may take more than just an hour or so to fix the problem. Maybe your partner hasn't been showing you enough attention lately, and this sparks a long argument. Allowing each other to cool down, process your emotions, and revisit the issue the next day can help you have a healthier, more productive conversation.

Is there a right time for conflicts?

When people say "never go to bed angry," they may be assuming that you and your loved one are running on the same clock. This may not always be the case for everyone. Maybe one of you works the morning shift and the other works at night, making it difficult to sit down together to resolve a certain issue. Your partner or roommate most likely doesn't want to come home from a long day to then be faced with a conflict.


In these situations, it can be helpful to set aside intentional time during the week to discuss issues the two of you might be having. Clinical psychologist Deborah Grody tells Time Magazine that "setting aside time to work out disagreements allows both partners the space to regroup and prepare." This creates a healthy boundary for the two of you to rely on in order to share your feelings at an appropriate time when both of you are ready.

The importance of listening

Once you and your loved one create time to discuss issues in your relationship, it's important that it is not a one-way conversation. In an argument, sometimes the best thing we can do is listen to each other rather than raise our voices. It is one thing to hear someone else's side, but it is another thing to truly be listening and understanding their point of view.


Your loved one can absolutely tell the difference between you actually listening to their feelings versus you waiting for a chance to chime in and be defensive. Trying to immediately prove them wrong or using harsh language against them can only escalate the argument further. When you do respond, instead try asking them questions that encourage them to share more of their feelings with you. Your loved one should be doing the same for you, so both of you can create a safe space for each other to talk in a healthy manner.

Seeking support from outside perspectives

If you and a loved one seem to find yourselves fighting frequently, it can be helpful to talk to people outside of the relationship for support and new perspectives. It can be easy, especially with a romantic partner, to feel wrapped up in a bubble of your own relationship, and you may forget to confide in the other people in your life. 


Your friends and family may be able to relate to the issues you are having and give you the advice you may not have thought about before. They may know you in a different way than your partner does and offer you another way to think about the issues you are having. Going to a couples therapist is another great option for couples who are having trouble solving issues by themselves. A therapist can be a fantastic mediator between the two of you and point out ways the two of you can work together to fix problems. 

Find what works for you

The age-old advice to "never go to bed angry" is not something that can be prescribed to everyone; it all depends on each individual and how they wish to solve conflicts. Some people absolutely cannot rest until a problem is solved that day, and that's okay. Others need more time and sleep to process their thoughts and revisit the issue at a more appropriate time. This is the bigger issue at hand: there's no one-size-fits-all solution, so each relationship has to work through arguments as a unit until they find the system that works best for them.


What matters is that we are expressing anger in a healthy way that does not hurt the people around us and we are actively listening to how our loved ones are feeling. We can show the people in our lives that we are on the same team and that we want to solve problems together. Though conflict will always show up in one way or another, we're all capable of finding solutions that work for us.