When it comes to solid sleep hygiene, a few things are crucial: no distractions, optimal comfort, keeping sleep disruptions to a minimum, and keeping your slumber schedule consistent. For better or worse, romance can really throw off some of those best-laid plans. So unfortunately, even if you get all of these things right, sleeping next to your sweetie can drastically undercut a good night’s rest, no matter how great your relationship otherwise might be.
Maybe you always see eye to eye, except when it comes to how you should sleep side by side. If this is the case, it might be time to make a healthy change, for both of your sakes.
According to one survey on a mattress review site, about 31% of coupled-up sleepers would like to try a “sleep divorce” in their relationship. The question is, what’s stopping them? Some relationship experts believe that the negative connotations associated with separate bedrooms are what cause the most hesitation. But if your sleep quality is poor because of your co-sleeping arrangement, it’s important to consider what could be at stake.
If you’re in a relationship and drawn to the idea of sleeping separately, here are some things worth considering.
What Is a Sleep Divorce?
At first, the term “sleep divorce” might sound more severe or negative than it is. Maybe your partner snores or has restless leg syndrome. If you’re anything like me, just about any and everything wakes you up, and you’re also an insomniac. Or perhaps there’s just too much body heat.
Some couples might need a “sleep divorce” simply because they have different, conflicting schedules. Whatever the case, when couples choose to sleep apart, in separate beds or completely different bedrooms, it’s known as a “sleep divorce.” The choice is most commonly made for reasons related to sleep hygiene and overall personal and relationship health.
While talking with TODAY, Michael Breus (a clinical psychologist better known as “The Sleep Doctor”), said he’s worked with a lot of couples who choose to sleep separately during the week but reunite at bedtime on the weekends. And if it might result in better sleep for you both, what’s the harm in trying?
Some long-time married couples have credited their reinvigorated love life and deepened intimacy with separate sleeping arrangements. Think about it this way: maybe one of you is a night owl and the other a self-proclaimed morning person. This difference in modes of day-to-day operating can be making synching up and getting into a groove difficult, especially if one of you is sacrificing your health just to hang out with your spouse.
It’s important to be clear about your motives with your partner and yourself. Wanting to sleep alone isn’t necessarily a red flag or a bad sign. It definitely shouldn’t be seen taken as a personal attack, either. Although, it can be if not handled with care.
It Might Lead to a Healthier Relationship
Sleeping separately may not only be what’s good for you, but it might also prove good for your relationship. If you’re both in a constant cycle of sacrificing proper rest, everyone’s energy is bound to suffer. That’s why some experts believe a sleep divorce may lead to a healthier sex life for people who can’t get on the same page about when and why to hit the hay. “Let’s face it — lack of energy is a far greater threat to an active sex life than lack of opportunity. And we are better rested,” per the Los Angeles Times.
Sleeping apart could also lead to something else that might be missing from the relationship: missing each other. It’s difficult to replace the feeling of longing, and it’s even more difficult to long for something that is in your face morning, noon, and night. For some couples, sleeping apart might make the heart grow fonder.
Ultimately, what’s most important to consider when deciding if a sleep divorce is right for you is whether or not you and your partner are actually getting a good night’s rest.
Bedtime should be something that you both look forward to, but if it isn’t, don’t feel bad about it. Your partner’s sleeping habits may just clash with yours, and that’s nobody’s fault. A sleep divorce can be a way to better the relationship, rather than take away from it. And with a healthier, happier relationship dynamic in mind, being well-rested should always be a priority, whatever it takes.
“It’s important for people to remember that sleeping together doesn’t always save a marriage any more than sleeping apart ruins a marriage. Its sleep, and sleep is really important to everyone. But even more important than that is loving each other enough to try something that makes life a bit easier for your partner,” per TODAY.
According to countless couples therapists, sleep divorces can actually improve relationships, often reigniting the spark that’s been snuffed out by daily exhaustion and stress. You might fear that sleeping separately will damage your connection, and while that’s a fair concern, experts say not to worry. If sleeping together leaves you consistently sleep-deprived, your current sleeping arrangement may be doing more harm than a good night’s rest in separate spaces ever could.
How to Make a Sleep Divorce Work
Relationships require work and so, they require energy. As we all know, without proper sleep, our energy can dwindle rapidly when we need it most. Healthy relationships also require open and honest communication. So if you want to make a sleep divorce work, you need to be clear about why you think it’s worth a shot.
Obviously, it’s not always an easy topic to comfortably talk about. Sleeping side by side is an intimate act. For many, it’s also a source of comfort. If you’ve been sleeping in the same bed for a while now, your partner may become defensive at first. That’s why it’s crucial to be honest, sympathetic, and practical about it.
An abrupt change will likely sting the most. Not to mention, blindsiding them may lead to unnecessary conflict. So before you grab your favorite pillow and make your way to another room, sit down and discuss the idea. Chances are, the suggestion will be better received if you don’t announce it right before bedtime. So make time for the conversation.
By approaching a sleep divorce from a loving, non-combative place, you can explain that this isn’t a punishment, nor is it passive aggressive move. At the end of the day, you’re just not sleeping well. More so, it might help you both sleep better.
For best results, avoid language that points the finger, such as “you kept me up all night” or “you move around too much.” Try to keep things mutual. Ideally, you want to explain why you think a trial sleep separation will be helpful, rather than blaming them for it. The word “we” will be key. Start by pointing out the obvious, like “we’re both so tired all of the time” or “we have different sleeping styles.” And start with just a night or two.
Give It a Test Run
Remember, nothing is set in stone. You’re suggesting that you try a different sleeping arrangement with both of your best interests in mind. It may turn out to be temporary, or something you only do sometimes.
When possible, set limits you’re both comfortable with. And who knows, it may be the best thing that ever happened to your relationship. Or, you may come to find you sleep even worse without each other. No matter what, you really need to sleep more soundly, and you’ll never know if a sleep divorce does or doesn’t work for you as a couple until you try it.
And sleeping apart can’t be worse than sleep deprivation.
If nothing else, a sleep divorce should be presented as an idea worth being open to. At the heart of your suggestion, you care about both of your well beings, so make that clear. With your newfound energy, make up for the lost time during sleeping hours when you’re both awake.
Spend time together before you go to bed. Let them know how much you appreciate them in little ways. If they prefer sleeping together, make an active effort to express your gratitude for them trusting you with this change. Actions do often speak louder than words, so show them the positive difference it’s making. That way, even if they don’t love sleeping apart, they will appreciate the mutual benefits.
Don’t Worry About How It Looks
No matter how a sleep divorce might look to the outside world (or even to you and your partner), how it feels will matter more. Many couples see their sleeping arrangement as a signifier of the health of their relationship. It doesn’t have to be.
People have often used the term “separate bedrooms” as a way to say that a couple isn’t doing so hot, but every relationship, and what it needs to thrive, is different. If you’re one of the people who doesn’t like the sound of it, now’s the time to change up your perspective with deep rest in mind.
Sleep compatibility is not a reflection of relationship compatibility. Some happy couples have reported that a sleep divorce “saved” their marriages. While this isn’t going to be the case for everyone, sleeping separately does not have to indicate how unhappy or happy a couple actually is. It’s a matter of prioritizing your health.
Again, consider why you might want a sleep divorce. If it is simply a matter of too many sleep disturbances and nothing to do with your day-to-day relationship, there is nothing to worry about. Needing to sleep alone is not indicative of a disconnect, no matter what anyone else might think about it.
The Ultimate Decision Should Be Mutual
Co-sleeping simply because you don’t like the idea of being apart should not be prioritized over your health. Still, your partner should have a say in the matter. If you’re going to sleep separately, agree about when, how, and why. Even if they don’t see the need at first, present your reasons clearly and fairly. A caring partner will come around. After all, neither of you should be expected to sacrifice your health for the other person.
If you can’t seem to agree, a sleep divorce may not result in better quality sleep, and it could lead to more stress. Try to find a compromise that works for you both. Or, stick to your guns and show them that it’s a good idea. There’s no real harm in giving solo sleep a test run. If nothing else, it’ll give you both the opportunity to tweak your routines and catch up on some shut-eye. Even if you come back together at bedtime, you’ll have a better sense of what compromises are worth making, and which ones are not.
While you might worry about it disrupting intimacy, a sleep divorce may give you new reasons to come together and be intimate in new ways, more often. No matter what, be patient with the process. We all let our routines become ruts sometimes, and our sleep schedules are not immune. There will likely be an adjustment period for you both. Give this new sleeping arrangement a real chance before you make any lasting decision.
And if a sleep divorce leads to better quality sleep for all involved, that can only be good for the relationship, right?