Sleeping is easily one of the most private things we do each day. Every person has her own individual sleep preferences and habits, some of which might clash with other people’s sleep behaviors. For that reason, many couples find sharing one bed each night to be the most difficult part of moving in together, and the sleep difficulties or conflicts which arise are often the ends of many relationships. That’s why more perfectly happy couples today are choosing to sleep apart in separate beds. According to a study by the National Sleep Foundation, as many as one in four married couples get a better night’s sleep by sleeping apart. Should more couples start sleeping in separate beds?

Sleep researchers have long diagnosed a condition called “environmental sleep disorder.” This broad diagnosis describes situations in which environmental noises, lights, or other distractions keep people from getting the healthiest sleep they can. When it comes to people who sleep with a partner, this environmental sleep disorder can be caused by one or both partners snoring, a mismatch between the individual mattress needs of each partner, or the restless limbs of a partner while they sleep. Sleeping individually can allow each partner to get the sleep their body needs, as opposed to the sleep their partner needs.

Still, many people are resistant due to stigmas associated with couples sleeping apart and the belief that sleeping apart is a sign of a loveless or unhealthy relationship. Dr. Carol Bruess, a St. Thomas University marriage and family professor, says that despite these stigmas, sleeping apart is actually not an indicator of relationship health:

There’s this great myth out there that sleeping separately is an indicator your marriage is about to fail. What couples need to be really careful about is making sure they are prioritizing physical intimacy even holding hands, snuggling and, of course, sexual intimacy, that can happen anytime, it’s not happening when you’re sleeping.

Given the widespread sleep deficits currently affecting millions of Americans, is it time we start having a conversation about the benefits of sleeping alone? How many couples would be willing to sleep apart in order to get more restful sleep?

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician from the mountains of Western North Carolina. Contact him at [email protected]

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