11 Reasons Married Couples Should Sleep in Separate Beds
A sleep divorce isn’t as sinister as it sounds—and it may bring you and your partner closer together.
Sleeping together may ignite the wrong flame
A third of American couples say they prefer sleeping alone, according to a 2021 poll. Experts suggest that this trend of hitting the hay solo may actually help partners stay together. That’s because insufficient sleep is a growing public health problem, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And a study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology explored just how hard these widespread patterns of poor sleep can be on your relationship.
Researchers from the Ohio State University found that couples who fought after not getting enough sleep had measurably higher levels of stress-related inflammation. While one night of bad sleep isn’t a big deal (and here are 12 ways to get through your day on little sleep), this physiological response from sleep loss becomes dangerous over time, says Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD, senior author of the study and director of the Ohio State University’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research. “If couples don’t find ways to effectively address their differences, having continuously elevated levels of inflammation could put them at higher risk for health problems,” she says, like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis.
It’s not just about your own well-being, either—the health of your relationship may be at stake. Sleep quality is deeply connected to your mental health and mood. So, a lack of zzz’s can easily trigger snappiness, arguments, and resentment that can send you on the express train toward a breakup.
While there are many factors that cause sleep problems, your overnight habits and preferred bedroom environment play huge roles. “Part of the issue in a marriage is that sleep patterns often track together. If one person is restless or has chronic problems, that can impact the other’s sleep,” explains Kiecolt-Glaser. “If these problems persist over time, you can get this nasty reverberation within the couple.” That’s why experts offer up these signs you and your partner might benefit from sleeping separately.
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The snoring is driving you nuts
Snoring is a common complaint—and common conflict. “Call it collateral damage from sleeping next to a freight train,” says Anil Rama, MD, Adjunct Clinical Faculty at the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine, Medical Director of Kaiser Permanente’s tertiary sleep medicine laboratory, and author of SHUT UP and Sleep. “The irregular, loud, unnatural sounds disrupt the sleep cycle, preventing the bed partner from reaching the deep sleep that is necessary to feel alert and refreshed the next day.”
Snoring can represent a health-related issue, such as allergies, nasal problems, weight gain, or sleep apnea, according to the Mayo Clinic. Or it can be the result of alcohol abuse or late-night drinking—something that might additionally spark fights. Sleep deprivation can also bring on snoring. If one (or both) of you are chronic snorers, you should talk to your doctor about the underlying cause, or try these top-rated anti-snoring products. You may also want to consider starting out your night in separate bedrooms, rather than having to make a trip to the couch at 3 a.m. and harboring hostilities instead of dealing with this issue head-on.
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You can only fall asleep to ’90s television reruns (not that there’s anything wrong with that)
Seinfeld homages aside, if your sleeping habits don’t mesh with your bed partner’s, everyone’s going to suffer. Sleep hygiene routines vary: One person may need white noise, and the other, complete silence. One might covet the breeze from an open window, while the other prefers the whir of an air conditioner. “No one ever considers sleep compatibility during the courtship phase of a relationship…[but] you should,” says Dr. Rama. “The same environmental and internal factors that help one person sleep may disrupt the sleep of someone else. Sleep fragmentation, in turn, leads to light, non-restorative sleep and daytime fatigue and irritability.” The solution might be a goodnight kiss and then a retreat to separate rooms.
Your schedules clash
If you’ve ever been woken from a blissful sleep by the surprising jolt of a groaning mattress, you may have a partner who works the night shift. Lots of couples have differing work schedules, which affect their sleeping times and sleep patterns. Other couples simply have different circadian rhythms. And you probably didn’t need a study to tell you this, but a review of research published in Chronobiology International in 2016 found that when that happens, conflicts can arise between bed partners. So, if you’re a night owl who never makes it into bed before 1 a.m. but the love of your life enjoys rising with the sun, sleeping in separate beds may be a great way to preserve harmony 24/7. Don’t miss these secrets to better sleep that doctors wish you knew.
Your honey is too hot
According to the National Sleep Foundation, there is an optimal temperature for sleeping, and it’s around 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit. But that number doesn’t take into account the heat two bodies can give off under the covers. Some people generate so much heat during sleep that their partner winds up soaked with sweat. If the love of your life rivals a Duraflame log, separate beds may be the way to go.
Getting enough sleep can help your diet
If one or both of you are struggling to lose a few pounds, insomnia may be one of the reasons you’re battling the scale. A number of studies link not getting enough sleep with weight gain, according to a review of research published in the journal BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine. One reason may be that not getting your beauty rest can impact appetite hormones like ghrelin and leptin. So, if you and your partner dream about achieving svelter forms, you may be better off dreaming in separate beds.
You’re both the Goldilocks of mattresses
You like it firm, she likes it soft—getting your mattress just right might be an impossibility. According to the Better Sleep Council, the type of mattress you sleep on has a significant impact on the quality of your sleep. Unfortunately, there’s not any one-size-fits-all, perfect-mattress option. If you can’t decide on a mattress that fits the bill for both of you, whoever lost that debate may wake up achy, cranky, and unrested. A great reason to choose separate beds is that you get to choose separate mattresses, too. Here are seven signs it’s time for a new mattress.
One of you is a blanket bandit
While it’s true that a cool room is better for sleep quality, stealing the blankets may leave your bed partner too cold, bringing on fitful sleep and bouts of wakefulness. If you’re a serial blanket stealer whose only alibi is, “I was asleep,” it’s off to separate-bed jail for you.
Your fur baby was there first
The new guy may have learned to love your Pekinese, but he can’t help it if Fluffy makes him sneeze. Lots of married couples enter into their human union with a valued pet in tow, but if one of you can’t stand the added bed presence of a dog or cat, let alone the sneezing that might accompany this co-sleeping arrangement, you could have a problem. “Allergies cause nasal congestion, which reduces the flow of air through the nose…[and that] disrupts sleep,” says Dr. Rama. “Imagine putting five-pound weights around your ankles and walking around all day. I think we can agree you would be more tired by the end of the day. Sleeping with nasal congestion is like wearing five-pound weights on your breathing. How would you feel when you wake up?” So if allergies are part of the picture, your options are slim: Pet trainer or another bed. Here are more pros and cons of sleeping with your dog.
One of you has restless legs syndrome
Also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease, restless legs syndrome (RLS) affects around 10 percent of the population and is more common in women, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. It causes the desire for constant movement of the legs, but it usually includes an early-morning grace period, when people with the disorder can get some much-needed rest. If you or your spouse is dealing with RLS, you’ll want to look into treatments that can help, like maintaining a regular sleep pattern and eliminating alcohol and cigarettes. In the meantime, sleeping in separate beds can help both of you get the rest you need.
But what about, you know…sex?
Lots of married couples fear that sleeping apart will adversely affect their sex lives, but those already happily flying solo typically say it ain’t so. The desire for sex represents a very different drive than the desire for sleep. If you’re sleep-deprived (especially due to your partner’s habits), the last thing you’re going to want to do is have sex. If you’re well rested, interest and arousal can skyrocket. One study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2015 found that women who got more sleep were more interested in sexual activity the next day and 14 percent more likely to be intimate with a partner if they got an extra hour of sleep. On the flip side, less sleep translated into less interest and poorer genital arousal.
Sleeping in separate beds, or even bedrooms, can also create the sexual tension that tantalized you both back in the day. Can you just picture him getting all dressed up (in black satin PJs or a cool suit), nabbing a bouquet of flowers, and knocking on your bedroom door for a date? What about surprising him at dawn with a cup of espresso and a cup of you? Get a good night’s sleep in your own bed and watch what happens. Don’t miss these 50 easy ways to sleep better.