5 Reasons to Stop Fighting and Go to Sleep

When I walked into the house, it was almost time for bed. My wife looked at her watch and shook her head critically. “Sorry it took so long,” I said, “but you know how my mother is.” “I know how you are,” she responded. “What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked, bristling. “She manipulates and you let her,” she shot back. “That’s not fair, and you know it,” I raised my voice. “What am I supposed to do?” “Not this,” she said, her eyes blazing. “Not this.”

We’ve all been there—in a fight that lasts into the night or starts late. It’s tempting to stay up until the problem is resolved, but what we really need to do is to take a break during the argument. Here are 5 reasons to stop fighting and go to sleep.

1. Fatigue escalates.

The later it gets, the harder it is for any of us to think clearly. Just like when we are driving, sleep deprivation affects judgement. Missed signals and misperceptions become disproportionately consequential when we are tired. It is impossible to be objective and reasonable when we can’t think straight.

2. Anger builds on itself and leads to irrational thinking.

When I allow anger to get the upper hand, I know I’m on thin ice. But, because I am embarrassed at my own lack of self-control, I find myself trying to justify the escalation. Now I sound argumentative or condescending. And just like that we’re deep into a vicious and unproductive cycle.

Time and rest refresh our spirits and our attitudes.

3. Interrupting the fight, even an unresolved fight, simply works.

Making the choice to take a pause is not an emotional decision; it is a reasonable choice. Dynamics often change while taking a break during an argument. When we stop arguing, when we decide to say “I love you,” when we lay down together, and hold hands, the tone of communication is reset. Besides, the fight likely didn’t make sense to begin with.

4. Tomorrow really is another day.

Morning light always offers a new perspective. And, sometimes, we forget why we were upset in the first place! Time and rest refresh our spirits and our attitudes. When we make a choice rooted in love to begin the day with an act of service (maybe serve a cup of coffee, or make breakfast), we reset the temperature. We can move from confrontation to communication. Think of the fresh opportunity a new day provides as a kind of preventative maintenance.

5. Starting over lowers the temperature and resets the framework.

When—and if—the conversation needs to continue, it can begin from a new context. The perspective of positive intentions. The framework of thoughtfulness. The calming balm of rest. The orientation of being together rather than separate. The safe space of distance from the emotion that fueled all the anger. In other words, what can happen is more like a recalibration than, “Gloves up, round two!”

Sound off: How has taking a break during an argument worked for you?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What can you do differently when you start to feel a fight with your sibling coming on?”