Working fulltime jobs, taking care of kids, attempting to take care our health, managing the house, tending the dogs, and being a good son / daughter respectively can take a lot out of a person. Add onto that all the other little commitments we give our time to and you suddenly have reduced sleep to an afterthought.
I am very guilty of this and know it's a habit I have to break if we're going to have a baby in the house ever. For me, I shut down. I do certain things by rote, but the more tired I get the less I can process emotionally; the less rational my decisions become; and the less productive I am in general. I also find myself getting annoyed by things I wouldn't even notice on a normal day. This leads to me being upset for no reason with my best friend and love.
Likewise, he also reacts poorly to too little sleep. He compensates by overdoing exercise or plunging into activity without reading instructions or asking questions first. Then he puts himself to sleep by playing a video game, watching sports, reading a book, or some other activity that doesn't involve communication with other humans. For him, napping at random times seems like a solution but in my observation, it only makes things worse because it's not good sleep. Like me he is less productive in areas and also more emotionally volatile.
This does not make for a good environment. One wrong word and suddenly we're both two angry chipmunks chattering at one another for no reason. By the time we step back, we're even more exhausted. This is something we're working on in our lives, but maybe it's worth taking a look at in general for most couples.
How much of the inability to move forward is due to physically or mentally exhaustion?
This article talks about the steps to a good nights sleep and it's affects on marriage. Now, I don't know if you can actually sleep your way to a better marriage but you can give your household a more balanced atmosphere by ensuring everyone is well rested.
My few tips include:
Save the television for downtime during the day. Use a DVR or OnDemand, but don't stay up to watch your favorite show (even if it's watched together) if it's eating into your 6-8 hours of needed rest. (That's for those over age 30, the numbers increase with age.) Take a few minutes to snuggle and chat before dozing off instead. It will be worth it to wake feeling refreshed.
Skip the late dessert or midnight snack. Not only will your waistline thank you, but everyone processes food differently. Eating too close to bedtime can cause you to wake fully or pop in and out of REM sleep so often that your body never truly rests and rejuvinates. If you're starving, have something small with strong protein chased by cleansing water (but not too much, bathroom calls in the middle of sleep aren't any more helpful than indigestion.)
Lay down together, even if you're not tired. Just the act of joining the person you love in bed really seems to help align priorities. If they doze off and you're awake, you have time to enjoy the person you love and think about whatever major events are occuring in your life (there's always something.) With time, your internal clock will also realign and you'll find yourself drifting to sleep at the same time.
Handle the issue. Much of the time, the things that keep you up at night are stresses in your life. Talking it out with your spouse or taking care of an issue (pay the bill / figure out a plan / clean the kitchen) can relieve the stress immediately. Ignoring it solves nothing. Annoyed with your spouse, take a few minutes before getting in bed to address the topic. I'm not advocating picking a fight, but sometimes at least expressing how you're feeling can help a lot. Even if you don't resolve the issue right away, you can agree to readdress it later. Not going to bed angry isn't just an old wives' tale, it's pretty darned accurate advice.
Edit (cause I forgot one): Learn to say no. If you're committing too much time to other people, events, causes that it's limiting the amount of time you spend sleeping, it's time to learn the art of denial. You cannot be everything to everyone, but you ARE everything to you. Sleep is important. There is no argument to that and if you embrace it, you'll be happier for it.
Accept physical needs. If you need a CPAP, special pillow, elevated legs, white noise, blackout shades, etc. - get it. There is no shame in your bedroom with your spouse. There should only be acceptance and love. Just find a way to still touch one another before falling asleep because physical touch, much like with infants, is a bonding thing.
Make out or love, often. Some nights are school nights or early mornings are to follow and you can't commit to a full session but a little romance always goes a long way to sleeping well. It raises the right hormones and chemicals in the body to relax and repair. Even when you don't feel like it, you'll find it goes a long way to helping clear your mind because your heart doesn't change. That's the great thing about being with the one you love and being in love, all the mental or emotional baggage can't change the fundamental truth of belonging together.
Last, but not least at all. Pray together. Whatever your faith relationships may be, take time to speak to that higher power and agree together. Dream and plan and hope together. As close as you may be, unless you're a superhero, you can't read minds. Speaking aloud, together, your wishes for the future can be a bonding and healing event. Some people will do devotions together, others will simply daydream together. Whatever form this takes in your life, don't skip out on it. It's the very behaviour that helped you find one another and can keep your connection fresh and new. That hopefulness and joy is a delight to the resting mind and keeps your dreams united and sweet.
So, I'm no expert but I find that these things help us a lot. Hopefully you will find them useful as well.