The Love Drug
Dr. Seus: “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”
Love is a strange drug. It infects our brain and leaves us helpless to our basic desires. It consumes our thoughts and places all our other obligations second. It even has the power to reduce our basic need for food, water and our favourite subject, sleep.
Many would attest that during the initial stages of a romantic relationship our desire for sleep is extremely limited. Our sole preoccupation is the affection we have for another. Lying in bed, our racing heart struggles to slow down, as we lose precious hours of shut-eye to love’s all consuming hold.
You would think this would leave us tired and grumpy, but love’s sweet cocktail prevents us from feeling the effects of sleep loss by releasing hormones that produce natural rewards for our brain. An increase in neurotransmitters such as dopamine, cortisol and oxytocin, create a pleasure state, similar to the feelings artificially created by drugs such as caffeine, sugar and cocaine. Our ‘love high’ boosts our energy, reducing our need for the mattress.
When we do sleep, the quality of our rest is actually quite high. In a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, by Professor Serge Brand of the University of Basel in Switzerland, teens in “early-stage intense romantic love” were found to sleep, on average, one hour less than their loveless counterparts. But the same study found that the young people in the intense love group, were less likely to wake-up. Their sleep was superior in quality.
Unfortunately, there have been no studies done with groups over 25. One would reason that the same hormonal spikes would be visible, but on a lesser degree. Adulthood tends to pacify the intensity of young love.
So, if you do find yourself in a new all-engrossing relationship, relax. Your body is designed to help you through it. You might lose a little sleep, which we never like to see, but your passion will level out your basic needs.