Sleep Divorce: Is sleep separation the key to great sleep and a great relationship?

Sleep Divorce: Is sleep separation the key to great sleep and a great relationship?

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, many of us have been seeing more of our significant others than ever before. “Alone time” has become scarce, particularly if both individuals are working from home, and what were once minor irritations about one another may have become bigger issues in the past year. A night of poor sleep added to building frustrations certainly doesn’t help matters, and a recent study reported that 36% of Americans reported difficulty sleeping due to pandemic stress. If you’re struggling to get a good night’s rest, it may be time to consider separate sleeping arrangements.

We all know the importance of quality sleep for personal mental and physical health, so it stands to reason that our relationships can also benefit from sleeping well. Research does show that when you’re well rested, you’re better at communicating, happier and more empathetic, which all contribute to healthy partnerships. So what if your sleep is interrupted by a partner’s snoring, tossing and turning, or insomnia? Or what if you prefer a colder room, while your loved one would rather sleep with flannel sheets and the heat turned up? According to sleep scientist Dr. Wendy Troxel in her TedTalk about sleep separation, people do sleep worse with a partner. So how do you decide if sleeping apart is the right decision for your relationship? Consider the suggestions below:

● Open Communication: Start an open-minded dialog about how you’re both sleeping and what might be contributing to poor sleep. Consider things like work schedules, natural wake/sleep cycles, pre-existing sleep conditions (like snoring, restless leg syndrome, or sleep apnea), and general preferences (such as room climate, weight of blankets, etc.). Perhaps the solution could be a larger bed or separate blankets?

● Weigh the Pros and Cons: Consider how sleeping in different beds may be a benefit (or a detriment) to you both and your families. Who bears the brunt of the bad mood as a result of poor sleep? Or what about resentment towards the partner who seems to fall asleep effortlessly while you’re still staring at the clock? Will there be more or less intimacy as a result? Take the time to think it through and problem-solve.

● Ignore Societal Expectations: if the pro/con exercise left you leaning towards “sleep divorce” but you’re still holding out, it could be because of the societal normalcy of sleeping in the same bed. We’ve all seen the film and TV depictions of a spouse “in the doghouse” being relegated to the couch. Re-frame those ideals in a positive light. Consider Dr. Troxel’s advice: “If sleeping apart seems like the right choice for you as a couple, try to think of it not as a filing for sleep divorce but as forging a sleep alliance.”