Going to bed mad may put your health at risk, study says

Lack of sleep makes you cranky, and it can certainly lead to a spat with your spouse from time to time. If it happens too much, though, it could take a toll on your health.

A new study shows our bodies pay the price whenever we don't get enough sleep -- and don't get along.

Scott and Dana Griffith have been married for 20 years and, like every other couple, have had their share of disagreements, occasionally losing tempers and holding grudges.

"If I'm crabby from not sleeping or I'm tired, then that would definitely help trigger, you know, a snappage," says Scott.

But arguing with a spouse may do more than put you in a bad mood. A new study shows it could put your health at risk.

To see what kind of physical impact emotional confrontations might have, researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center set up an experiment.

"We brought couples into the lab and had them discuss a marital problem - to fight - and they also provided blood samples before and after the conflict," says Dr. Stephanie Wilson, from OSU Wexner Medical Center.

In the lab, researchers tested those blood samples for signs of inflammation to see if there were any changes before and after the argument. In couples who argued on little sleep, they saw surprising results.

"When both of those factors came into play we saw about a 10 percent increase in inflammation," says Dr. Wilson.

One fight after a sleepless night isn't likely to cause major health problems, but if it's a pattern, long-term inflammation is linked to serious conditions.

"They range from things like cardiovascular disease, which is the number one killer; arthritis, osteoporosis, type two diabetes," says Dr. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser of OSU Wexner Medical Center.

The good news is, couples who resolved conflicts calmly and effectively saw no increase in inflammation, giving credence to the age-old notion that couples should never go to bed angry.

"It's really important for couples to find good ways to process a relationship, and to think about how they disagree," says Dr. Kiecolt-Glaser.

Researchers say couples who got at least seven hours of sleep the night before an argument had lower levels of inflammation. Anything less than seven hours, and inflammation levels went up.