Divorce, especially international divorce, has long been known for its added stress on individuals, whether it be emotional, mental, or physical. What most people do not realize is that long-term stress brought upon by divorce can lead to more serious health problems. In a sleep study conducted by David Sbarra, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Arizona, it was found that sleep problems that occur following a separation can be a normal adjustment progression. However, sleep problems that persisted for an extended period of time might be attributed to the mental stress associated with the legal process.

Sbarra states: “It may mean that people are potentially becoming depressed, that they’re struggling with getting their life going again, and it is these people that are particularly susceptible to health problems.”

The article focused on 138 people who had divorced or been physically separated from their partner for approximately 16 weeks before the study began. Sleep quality and blood pressure levels were monitored for each participant over three lab visits in a seven-and-a-half month period. While there did not appear to be a direct relationship between sleep issues and blood pressure levels at the beginning, there was a delayed correlation between increased systolic and diastolic blood pressure and sleeping problems discovered in subsequent lab visits.

“We saw changes in resting blood pressure were associated with sleep problems three months earlier. Earlier sleep problems predicted increases in resting blood pressure over time,” according to Sbarra.

The research goes on to explain how the length of time in which the sleep problems persisted increased the likelihood of those problems having a harmful effect on blood pressure. Such ramifications tend to cumulate approximately 10 weeks following separation from a spouse. This extended period of time is something that people should pay attention to, especially when they notice a blood pressure increase. Sleep problems occurring up until the 10-week marker do not appear to have an association with future blood pressure increases.

This can be particularly serious for those who are susceptible or already have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a widespread problem that can lead to early death, whether it is from stroke, heart failure or diabetes. Many separated or divorced individuals — especially those who have gone through the complications of international divorce — do not realize their risk of developing such issues as a result of stress, anxiety, tension, and other changes. The human body can be heavily impacted by such chronic symptoms and seeking help is advised. Krietsh suggests that separated and divorced individuals seek therapy if they experience persistent sleeping difficulties. This study promotes the value of sleep and highlights how our minds and bodies have a co-dependent relationship.

Schedule adjustments or finding new methods of relaxation can also be helpful. It is important to understand that the divorce and complicated international divorce does not have to be experienced alone. There are several resources that individuals can tap into for support. Physical exercise, reaching out to friends and family, and speaking with a therapist are ways that a person can take an active role in creating a healthy transition period.