Studies repeatedly demonstrate the importance of sleep, but so many couples across the world find that it’s next to impossible to catch enough Zzz’s with their significant other in the same bed.
Maybe she snores like a train, maybe he tosses and turns all night, or maybe her body temperatures just don’t align. There are certainly workarounds to all kinds of sleep-inhibiting issues—a bigger or more comfortable bed, ear plugs, meditation for a deeper slumber—but sometimes the best solution is space.
“Arranging to sleep in separate bedrooms is a good option for many couples and more common than you think,” says Dr. Shawn S. Nasseri, a board-certified otolaryngologist.
In fact, a survey from the National Sleep Foundation found that almost one in four married couples sleep in separate beds. It’s not just older or unhappy couples who choose to do so, either. A growing number of young, healthy couples are sleeping in separate bedrooms, helping to strip the bedtime arrangement of its stigma.
“It has been found that sleeping separately can actually improve your relationship with your partner since you won’t be depriving each other of sleep,” says Dr. Nasseri. But how do you know if it’s right for you?
We’re diving into the nitty gritty details and delivering an answer once and for all to the question, “Should we just get separate bedrooms already?”
Spotting the signs of poor sleep
Getting a full night’s rest doesn’t just feel good the next morning—it has a serious impact on your overall health and well-being. To be honest, that discussion merits its own article, but to put it simply per the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, “sleep is necessary for our healthy functioning and even survival.”
According to Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, a board-certified internist, and expert in chronic fatigue syndrome, sleep, and pain, “Sleep is highly critical for energy, but also for mental clarity, optimizing immunity, healing pain, and even weight loss.” He and most experts agree that adults should aim for between seven and eight hours of sleep per night.
Even more important, however, is the quality of your sleep. Here’s where your partner’s tossing, snoring, or egregious bedtime might habit come into play. One of the biggest signs your body isn’t getting enough quality sleep is constant sleepiness. This presents as sluggishness, a strong and pressing desire to nap or rest, reliance on caffeine, headaches, vision problems, and a foggy brain.
But that’s not all. “After an awful sleep, irritability can arise causing mood swings, making you vulnerable to stress and personality changes that affect your relationship,” adds Dr. Nasseri. You may also experience generalized depression and the inability to engage in normal daily functions or activities, he adds.
Determining if you should sleep in separate beds
Sometimes it’s tricky to determine if your partner is the reason for your lack of shut-eye. This is especially true if you are more-or-less sleeping through the night, seemingly unaware your sleep cycle is being interrupted regularly. It’s also possible you’re simply not giving enough credence to the way their bed habits are impacting your rest. These habits might include restless legs, light snores, electronic light/sounds, frequent wake-ups, or going to bed after you.
The best way to test this theory is by sleeping in separate rooms for a week. If you continue to find yourself waking up throughout the night for no apparent reason, you may have your own sleep issues and should discuss solutions with your doctor. But if you find yourself better rested, more engaged, and/or less irritated during this trial, there’s a good chance your bedmate is to blame. In this case, from a practical standpoint, separate beds will likely benefit both your quality of sleep and your relationship.
“My husband and I have different sleep habits. For one, I like to go to bed early whereas he is a night owl. I also tend to run hot at night and toss and turn in my sleep, which makes sharing a bed uncomfortable for us both,” says Holly, 32, who spoke to us about her sleeping arrangement. “Sleeping in separate beds—not all the time but on most weeknights—has alleviated the frustration and stress this caused. We have a mutual understanding that this works best for us.”
With that said, before you make this change, it’s important to have an honest conversation about your decision to do so. Make sure your partner understands that your decision is purely logistical and has nothing to do with the health of your relationship. Communication is key to making this arrangement work.
Keeping the romance alive with separate bedrooms
According to Briony Leo, a psychologist and the head coach at Relish, a relationship coaching app, sleeping in different beds won’t kill intimacy as long as you have other ways of connecting. To maintain the romance, she recommends being intentional about getting quality time at other times of the day. Maybe that means visiting in the other’s bedroom for a cuddle in the evening or in the morning, spooning on the couch, or walking around the block together with hands held.
Holly tells us that her husband tucks her into bed each night. “It sounds cheesy, but after a busy day, this is a moment together that feels intentional. We lay in bed and chat for a little while before kissing each other goodnight,” she explains. “Of course, we also carve out other times throughout the day and on the weekends to be intimate.”
Physical connection is key, too, which leads us to our next point: Keep having sex. With separate rooms you might find that the ability to be spontaneous in bed is trickier. Schedule sex if necessary, or simply be more spontaneous at non-bedtime hours. Sneak into your partner’s bed in the morning or send them a sexy text in the afternoon.
At the end of the day, sleeping in separate beds to remedy a poor sleep issue means you’re apart for around eight unconscious hours. That leaves plenty of time for intimacy.
Getting better sleep while sharing a bed with you S.O.
Sleeping in separate bedroom isn’t for everyone, and while sleeping in the same bed as your partner isn’t a prerequisite for a happy relationship, it does have its benefits. “Some benefits of sharing a bed are being able to talk to your partner before going to sleep about your day, greater opportunity for spontaneous or planned sex, physical comfort of a partner and spooning, and the opportunity to start the day together,” says Leo.
If you would prefer to try to remedy your sleeping issues before choosing separate beds, there are plenty of options. Your top priority should be pinpointing the causes of the issue, as some problems are easier to fix than others. For example, making a “phones off” or “screens out of the bedroom” rule is simple enough, as is getting your own blankets. You can even become better aligned on sleep schedules to prevent disruptions.
Complex issues include snoring and restlessness, but both can be remedied. Light snoring can sometimes be fixed with ear plugs; for louder snoring, ask your partner to try a snore-prevention device, such as the Mute Nasal Dilator, or even simply switching sleeping positions.
There are devices that can help correct sleeping posture, like the Smart Nora. In more severe cases, your partner should be evaluated for sleep apnea, upper airway resistance syndrome (nasal congestion), and other causes of snoring, Dr. Teitelbaum says, adding that most of these can be alleviated.
Tossing and turning might be an issue of a racing mind or restless body. Meditation and yoga practices can help with these issues, as can reducing caffeine intake and reducing stressors in your life. Dr. Teitelbaum also recommends taking magnesium before to relax your muscles and says sleep supplements with melatonin can help, too. (Love Wellness Sleeping Beauty contains both.) Doctors can even prescribe stronger sleep medications to help.
The issue might also be a bad bed that results in discomfort. Your mattress should be replaced every seven to 10 years and flipped/rotated every six months. Also, don’t discount the importance of investing here. There are so many direct-to-your-door options out there that are high-quality but won’t break the bank. For example, The Eden Mattress is $1299 for a Queen and $1499 for a king, is made with organic materials, and offers one of the more robust trial/return/lifetime warranties out there.