Sleep experts suggest that sleeping in separate beds might be good for your relationship. But is it realistic for most couples? Jess and Carolyn weigh in on this so-called trend on Global TV’s The Morning Show.
1. What did this Canadian study find?
- According to a study out of Ryerson University’s Sleep and Depression Laboratory, 30-40 percent of couples sleep in separate beds; but this percentage is probably overstated owing to the fact that their sample included people attending the sleep clinic with sleep-related issues.
- Sleep arrangements are culturally and environmentally influenced. One older large-scale study found that people are more likely to sleep together in cooler climates and other research suggests that half of mothers across the globe share a bed with their children while the father sleeps in a separate bed.
2. Why might it be better to sleep in separate rooms?
- Research shows that couples believe that they sleep better when they’re together, despite the fact that brain scan research suggests the opposite. Sleeping with a partner can result in additional sleep disruptions each time they toss, turn, snore or flip the pillow in search of the cool side. More specifically, those of us who sleep with a partner experience less REM sleep and increased physical activity during the night.
- The costs of a poor night’s sleep are both personal and relational as stress levels increase and empathy, conflict resolution aptitude, energy, patience and gratitude decrease. We also make poorer food choices when we’re sleep deprived which can also adversely affect our mood.
- Chronic poor sleep quality is strongly associated with diminished quality of life with reductions similar in effect to chronic conditions including congestive heart failure and major depressive disorder.
3. Are separate beds really practical?
Most people don’t have sprawling estates with an east and a west wing and as more people opt to live in big cities with smaller spaces, having separate bedrooms may not be realistic. I do know a number of couples who have opted to keep separate bedrooms because they have the means to do so. They say it’s actually good for their sex lives, as it allows them to maintain a degree of mystery and be more playful in the ways they initiate sex. It’s just the simple “poke from behind”.
4. Is there anything you can do to be less disruptive to your partner’s sleep?
- We know that couples whose sleep and wake patterns are mismatched report lower quality sleep, spend less time together and have less frequent sex; if this is the case in your relationship (you wake up and/or go to bed at different times), try to get ready for your day/get ready for bed in a separate room so you don’t wake your partner.
- If your partner complains that you’re disrupting their sleep, rather than taking it personally and/or getting defensive, look for ways you can adjust your habits to reduce the interference. You may want to consider sleeping apart (if you can afford another bed) a few nights per week to see if your/their sleep habits improve.
- If you decide to sleep separately, make an effort to find other opportunities for physical closeness and affection — while watching TV, when you say hello and goodbye each day, or even in the car or at the dinner table. We know that physical touch is essential to human development, intimacy, and health; touch assists with healing, lowering blood pressure, reducing stress and of course, fostering connection, so make sure you reach out and touch your lover whether you decide to sleep together or apart.