Will Getting a Sleep Divorce Save or Hurt Your Relationship?

Are you and your partner having difficulties sharing a bed? A sleep divorce can offer a quick fix for sleep troubles, but it might not be the best choice for your relationship.

By Nicole Gleichmann

When most of us envision a scenario that would lead to sleeping in a separate bed from our significant other, we tend to imagine a fight or disagreement. Yet, couples are increasingly sleeping in different rooms or beds not because of a rocky relationship, but in the hopes of improving individual sleep health.

If you’re struggling to sleep well throughout the night and wondering if sleeping in separate beds or bedrooms might help, you’re not alone. More and more couples around the world are beginning to sleep in separate beds in the hopes of better sleep.

The term for this phenomenon is sleep divorce. Sleep divorce is simply when you and your spouse decide to sleep separately so that you can both enjoy better sleep.

According to polls in the United States and the U.K., not only are sleep divorces becoming more common, but many of us who sleep together feel that we would do better if we slept separately. One survey of 3,000 Americans found that 30.9% would like to slumber solo. Across the pond in the U.K. the feeling is mutual, with 15% already preferring to sleep in a different bed than their lover.

Yet, just because sleep divorce is becoming more common doesn’t mean that it’s the best choice for everyone. There are benefits of sleeping together that are worth examining if you’re considering moving to a different bed.

The Reasons to File for Sleep Divorce

Unlike a traditional divorce, a sleep divorce is typically agreed upon not because the couple is falling out of love – it’s because they prefer to sleep alone because they aren’t getting a good night’s sleep together…for a variety of reasons.

Disordered Sleep Leads to More Disordered Sleep

One of the common reasons for sleeping apart is because one person has a condition that’s keeping the other awake at night, such as snoring. When one partner snores, it can be a nightmare for the other to try and get enough sleep that night. And when this happens night after night, the tired partner can leave the bedroom in the hopes of a good night’s sleep.

There are other conditions, too, that can make sharing a bed hard. Restless leg syndrome, insomnia, and obstructive sleep apnea can hinder sleep for both partners because of things like increased tossing and turning or the noise of a CPAP machine.

Different Sleep Schedules

Whether due to work or just general preference, it’s not uncommon to have one night owl and one early riser in a couple. This can lead to interruptions in sleep for both partners if a middle ground isn’t met. This is particularly difficult if the person waking up earlier has morning habits like pressing the snooze button or getting ready in the bedroom, which can wake up their spouse.

Harmful Bedtime Routines

Do you or your spouse enjoy watching TV or scrolling through a social media app on your smartphone in bed? The excess noise, light, and stimulation can make sleep challenging. Plus, some television shows and news stories can increase the chances of nightmares and trouble sleeping.

Solo Habits

Many of us are entering into relationships after spending years sleeping alone…sometimes even every year of our lives up to that point. If you’re accustomed to sleeping in your own space for the past 20, 30, or 40 years, it can be quite the adjustment to simply sleep in the same bed with another partner. Even if you manage to do so and sleep well together, it’s normal to desire that time alone in your own private space that you’re so accustomed to.

Bedroom Preferences

Do you and your partner have different preferences in mattress firmness? Does one of you prefer to sleep with a thick comforter and the other just a thin sheet? Differences in bedroom preferences must be overcome to achieve a good night’s rest.

Sleeping with Pets and Kids

Some people prefer to sleep with their dogs, cats, or kids in the bed or the bedroom, while others would prefer to only share their space with one other person. These different parenting routes can lead to one parent sharing their bedroom with a baby, dog, or cat and the other not wanting to do so.

The Health Consequences of Poor Sleep

No one enjoys the feeling of not getting enough sleep the night before. It’s tough to go through a whole day using only your willpower and caffeine to get you by. And when disordered sleep continues for long stretches of time, it can impact overall health and longevity.

Adequate sleep of around 7 hours each night is important for optimal mental and physical health. Poor sleep, whether due to frequent waking or not sleeping for long enough, is tied to the pathogenesis of conditions like metabolic syndrome, depression, and cardiovascular disease.

Because it is so important to get enough sleep each night, sleep divorce may be the best option for certain couples. Yet, just because sleeping separately helps in the short term doesn’t mean that there aren’t downsides or alternatives that you should consider.

The Downsides of a Sleep Divorce

After reading all of this, you might be thinking to yourself, “A sleep divorce doesn’t sound so bad after all!” Before you run to your partner and tell them that you need to adjust your sleeping arrangement, it’s important to examine the downsides of sleeping separately.

Your Sex Life and Intimacy Might Suffer

One worry when it comes to sleeping separately is sex and romance. With most sexual rendezvous happening between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m., spontaneous sex is likely to slow once you stop sleeping together.

Plus, for those couples who spend 40 hours or more apart each week, time in bed is often the only substantial one-on-one time that they experience. Unless you pay close attention to make up for this intimacy elsewhere, your relationship could suffer.

You Might Be Ignoring an Underlying Health Concern

With many people experiencing a lack of sleep due to a health condition of their partner, simply leaving the room will only fix the sleep problem for one of you. Snoring, sleep apnea, insomnia, and other conditions that lead to disordered sleep need to be addressed, not ignored.

Researchers have found that patients with sleep apnea are more likely to use their CPAP machines when they sleep with their partners than when they sleep alone, demonstrating that sharing a bed might be beneficial when it comes to addressing sleep conditions.

By sleeping apart, some couples might be choosing to ignore an underlying illness rather than treat it directly, leading to other problems in the future.

Should You Get a Sleep Divorce?

If you’re wondering whether or not you should get a sleep divorce, it’s important to realize that the answer varies from one couple to another. Before you decide to go your separate ways, as far as sleeping is concerned, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Have you talked to a doctor? If you or your partner has a condition that’s keeping the other awake, it’s not only the partner that’s being kept awake whose sleep is suffering. A sleep specialist or other doctor might be able to help both of you get a better night’s sleep.
  2. Could you meet in the middle? When it is preferences that are getting in your way, like when to go to sleep or what kind of bed to have, would you be able to find a compromise that you could each eventually become accustomed to?
  3. Is it the sleep environment? Sometimes it’s the room, not the people in it, that needs to be addressed. For example, a small bed or hot bedroom can make sleeping with someone else tough. Maybe all you need to do is get a larger bed and a window AC unit to allow you both to get a good night’s rest.
  4. How will you maintain a good sexual connection? Just because you sleep in separate beds doesn’t mean that your sex life and one-on-one time is destined to fade away, but you will have to make more of an effort to be sure that it doesn’t. Maybe one of you tucks the other into bed each night and you cuddle first, of you have one night each week that you sleep together after date nights to keep your sex life alive.

However, if you and your partner discuss it and feel like separate rooms will help you fix a lack of sleep without disrupting your love life, it might be a good option. Just be sure that you’re doing it for the right reasons, and not because you haven’t addressed an underlying problem.

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