Is an old practice – partners sleeping apart – catching on again? It sure looks like it. Estimates vary, but a study from Ryerson’s Sleep and Depression Laboratory in Toronto pegs it as high as 40%. Meanwhile, a 2015 study from the National Sleep Foundation says one in four couples are choosing to slumber solo.
If you’ve seen television sitcoms from the 1950s, couples slept in the same room but always in separate beds, whether it was Lucy and Ricky from I Love Lucy or Ralph and wife Alice of The Honeymooners. That wasn’t because of snoring or restless spouses, but due to FCC regulations, which thought depictions of people in the same bed implied indecency. And because it was 60 years ago, viewers didn’t seem to mind keeping it wholesome.
Today, many couples are going the separate beds route, but for different reasons. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip go their own ways each night, as do director Tim Burton and his partner Helen Bonham Carter. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West also slept in individual bedrooms, too, but just while she was pregnant.
It’s not difficult to imagine why couples are making that choice. Especially if you’ve ever had your sleep disturbed by a bedmate who snores, thrashes around like a tuna being hauled into a fishing boat, is hot as asphalt or cold as icicles, works shifts, rises early, coughs, sneezes, steals the sheets and rolls up in them like a burrito, wakes up to look at his or her phone, or constantly gets up to go the bathroom. You get it, right?
But our society has a bit of a hang up over couples that don’t sleep together. It’s often interpreted as a sign of trouble in paradise and a lack of intimacy in the relationship. That’s why many twosomes often choose to not disclose their sleeping habits to others. So those numbers above may actually be higher – and on the rise.
While partners may get better quality sleep separately, which is the key motivator for individual beds, what impact does going disparate ways every night have on a relationship? Some research says that you’ll miss out on that surge of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone released with skin-on-skin contact, like cuddling or spooning.
And you may not feel as satisfied with your partner. A study from the University of Hertfordshire found 90% of couples that slept within inches of each other or touched during the night, claimed to be happy with their relationship compared with two-thirds who slept more than 30 inches away, or had zero contact.
“The negatives definitely outweigh the positives when it comes to couples sleeping in separate beds,” says Dr. Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, author, The Self-Aware Parent, and co-star on Sex Box, WE tv. “I treat a small percentage of couples who sleep in separate beds, even separate bedrooms, because one partner snores, has sleep apnea, suffers from allergies, or is an insomniac. The benefit is a better night’s sleep for the afflicted. The feedback I hear, though, is that this puts a wedge of distance between the partners.”
And there’s often resentment too since the partner who does not have sleeping issues often feels lonely and shortchanged on intimacy that only comes with spooning and cuddling together in bed.
“These folks generally accommodate and get used to sleeping solo, and then when one wants to tip the scale and try sleeping together again, it’s problematic because they’ve become used to nocturnal isolation,” explains Dr. Walfish.
And one more important drawback, spontaneity and frequency of sex decreases for couples that sleep in separate beds…
Before you and your beloved opt for a night divorce, consider a couple of other possible solutions that may help you sleep together – peacefully. It might be as simple as upsizing your mattress. Some research suggests couples are more content and get a better quality of rest in a larger bed. Perhaps now is the time to upgrade and get that king-sized one you’ve been coveting.
And one final suggestion, some data says that going to bed at the same time may be the solution to many of the common problems couples might have sleeping together. Estimates say that 75% of twosomes do not go to bed at the same time. There’s usually someone who delays bedtime in favor of surfing the net, reading or watching television. It’s worth a try!
How do you sleep? With your partner or without?
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