Is it time for a sleep divorce? Separate beds make happy couples

The more secure partners feel, the more comfortable they are sleeping separately

Couples who sleep in the same bedroom are more likely to experience nocturnal disturbances from their partner, potentially leading to health problems, sexual dysfunction and marital spats. Photograph: Ellen Weinstein/The New York Times

Couples who sleep in the same bedroom are more likely to experience nocturnal disturbances from their partner, potentially leading to health problems, sexual dysfunction and marital spats. Photograph: Ellen Weinstein/The New York Times

 

While most couples consider sharing a bed to be an expression of intimacy and togetherness, research shows there may be grounds for sleeping separately – like the bedroom scenes in the 1950s TV show “I Love Lucy,” starring Lucille Ball and her real-life husband, Desi Arnaz.

Couples who sleep in the same bedroom are more likely to experience nocturnal disturbances from their partner (like snoring, bad hygiene, tossing and turning and different schedules). And all this can lead to health problems, sexual dysfunction and marital spats.

A 2016 study from Paracelsus Private Medical University in Nuremberg, Germany, showed that sleep issues and relationship problems tend to occur simultaneously. In fact, a 2013 study from the University of California, Berkeley found that one partner’s sleepless night caused by disturbances from the other partner can result in conflicts in the relationship the next day.

Feeling rested, the experts say, could help you manage life with more focus and control

“While there are benefits to sleeping together, one partner’s troublesome sleeping or annoying bed habits can affect the other and increase production of the stress hormone cortisol, thus causing issues that impact the couple as a whole,” said Mary Jo Rapini, a relationship and intimacy psychotherapist based in Houston in the US.

Feeling rested, the experts say, could help you manage life with more focus and control, which in turn can make you feel more content and happier in your relationship.

“When both parties are getting a restorative night’s sleep it allows them to feel emotionally, mentally and physically healthier without one resentful of their partner for keeping them awake, nor the other feeling guilty for disturbing his or her mate,” said Jennifer Adams, the author of “Sleeping Apart Not Falling Apart” (Finch Publishing, 2015). “That’s a good foundation on which to build and weather a relationship.”

Not sharing a marital bed is becoming many couples’ dream.

A 2012 survey by the Better Sleep Council showed that one in 4 couples sleeps separately for a better night’s sleep. Yet 46 per cent of 2,000 Americans polled last year by the marketing research company OnePoll on behalf of the US bedding retailer Slumber Cloud said they wished they could sleep apart from their partner.

“Some couples feel strongly that sleeping apart has made their relationship more solid,” said Ken Page, a psychotherapist based in New York City and the author of Deeper Dating” and the host of a podcast by the same name. “I have worked with couples who have said that not having to worry about their sleep being disturbed was such a relief that it allowed them to appreciate the good things in their relationship and lifted any resentment they may have felt in the past.”

Women are more likely to be disturbed by the man’s presence in bed than men by a woman

The more secure partners feel in their relationship, the more comfortable they tend to be with the idea of sleeping separately.

“Happy, long-term couples are more inclined to have well-developed communication skills and patterns, which are key to making separate sleeping arrangements work,” Adams said.

Some say that gender also plays a role. “It’s usually the wife or girlfriend who favors the idea of separate beds,” Rapini said. “Women are more sensitive to their bed mate’s bad habits and pregnancy and hormonal changes or problems can cause them to want to sleep alone.”

A study published in 2007 by the journal Sleep and Biological Rhythms found that women are more likely to be disturbed by the man’s presence in bed than men by a woman.

Separate sleeping arrangements can include pairing side by side beds of similar size, having a smaller plus a larger bed in the room that the couple could share when they want to be intimate, or designating nights in a spare room. Separate bedrooms is another option.

Healthy couples who sleep separately can be as happy as healthy couples who sleep together

Tina Cooper (45) a licensed social worker who owns a home in Baltimore in the US with her boyfriend of ten years, Donald Smith (63) also a social worker, prefers having her own room. “I’m a private person and need space,” she says “Everyone I’ve ever dated knew that if we married I would want my own bedroom. If they tried to change my mind I knew he was not the one for me.”

Like many other couples who like having separate bedrooms, Cooper and Smith have opposite sleeping habits.

“I’m a night owl, he’s an early bird,” Cooper said. “I need soothing sounds to fall asleep to, he likes silence. He likes a hard mattress, mine is soft and full of pillows. And because I don’t like the early day’s sunlight, Donald gave me the master bedroom which gets less light and he has the second largest room that gets the sunrise he loves.”

Being open and honest with your partner about why you want to sleep separately is essential. “What’s equally as important to why you want to sleep apart is how you plan to ensure intimacy is retained in the relationship,” Adams says. “Making sure you have a routine and set times to connect is key, such as having breakfast together each morning or a drink together before bed at night, and welcoming each other into your room.”

Cooper said that she and her boyfriend “do spend a lot of time together. We hang out in each other’s bedroom, but mostly in the kitchen. And we share the third bedroom as our office, where we each have our own desk.”

Healthy couples who sleep separately can be as happy as healthy couples who sleep together. “They seem to have as good a sex life as couples who share the same bed,” Rapini said. “They feel very close to their partner. Maybe it’s because they respect each other’s personal space.” – New York Times

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