© Pixabay, Public DomainThe best sleep aid might be a supportive and attentive partner, new research suggests.
The people we are closest with may have a significant impact on the quality of sleep we get, suggests new research published Wednesday in Social Psychological and Personality Science.

The researchers studied data from a nationally representative survey of middle-aged Americans that examined how behavioral, psychological, and social factors affected people's health and well-being. Among people in relationships, they noticed a consistent pattern: Those who had responsive partners, meaning those who were attentive, supportive, and empathic, were generally calmer and experienced less stress. As a result, they also slept better.

"Our findings show that individuals with responsive partners experience lower anxiety and arousal, which in turn improves their sleep quality," said lead author Dr. Emre Selçuk, a developmental and social psychologist at Middle East Technical University in Turkey, in a statement.

Though Selçuk and his colleagues only looked at romantic relationships, it's likely that having especially supportive parents in our childhood or close friends would also provide the same boosts in stress relief and sleep.

"Having responsive partners who would be available to protect and comfort us should things go wrong is the most effective way for us humans to reduce anxiety, tension, and arousal," said Selçuk.

A 2013 study similarly found that poor social relationships with friends and family alike could contribute to teenagers' poor sleeping habits. And other recent research has shown the connection between sleep and our close social ties goes both ways, with especially restful sleep predicting less marital stress among newlyweds. Consistently bad sleep, in turn, is known to leave us vulnerable to a myriad of health problems, including diabetes and heart disease.

Meanwhile, earlier research by Selçuk's team, using the same survey data as the current study, has found that having responsive partners also improved people's overall physiological well-being and physical health.

"Taken together, the corpus of evidence we obtained in recent years suggests that our best bet for a happier, healthier, and a longer life is having a responsive partner," said Selçuk.

Selçuk E, Stanton S, Slachter R, et al. Perceived Partner Responsiveness Predicts Better Sleep Quality through Lower Anxiety. Social Psychological and Personality Science . 2016.