It turns out couples are so desperate these days to get a good night’s sleep they’re resorting to “sleep divorces,” where they sleep in separate beds instead of sharing one. According to a recent study by the National Sleep Foundation, one in 10 couples sleep in different rooms because their partner’s sleep habits (think: sleep apnea, differing bedtimes, nightmares, temperature preferences, etc.) make it difficult for them to get a quality night’s rest. The benefits of good sleep include setting you up for a productive, energized day — and, of course, fewer arguments with your partner. But, differing sleep habits don’t necessarily mean you need to resort to a lifetime of separate bedrooms with your significant other. Here, we chatted to two experts about how you can ensure sharing a bed is a harmonious experience.
Like all relationship issues, being upfront and honest about the situation is key to ensuring both parties feel happy and heard. Whether you are a couple who has recently moved in together or one that has been together a long time, setting aside some time to chat about your sleep can be very healthy. Choose a time when you are both relaxed and ideally not right before (or while you’re in) bed. “If your partner has no idea they are disrupting your sleep, nothing will change. It can be a delicate topic, so consider how you will approach it and be aware that it may result in your partner telling you that you disturb them too,” says Tania Taylor, a psychotherapist. During this discussion, you can cover how you both like to sleep, sleep timings, and whether you feel disrupted. “Now you have both been honest with one another, what can you both do to help each other out? Sometimes, compromise is needed,” she added. For example, your partner agrees to use a phone torch instead of turning on all the overhead lights when coming to bed late or leaving your clothes in another room to get dressed if you need to wake up early.
Consider seeing a specialist.
If your partner is a severe snorer, first rule out there isn’t something medical that can help. Suggest kindly they visit the doctor — many solutions can help improve snoring. Similarly, if your partner is suffering from another sleep condition, it might also be worth seeing a sleep specialist. “Disturbance can cause both parties to experience daytime exhaustion and low mood and potentially impact the relationship. Visiting a sleep specialist will help identify the root cause of the restlessness, such as insomnia, restless legs syndrome, periodic limb movement, or sleep apnea,” says Dr. Guy Meadows, clinical director at Sleep School.
Being woken up by your partner in the night can naturally cause you to feel frustrated, angry, and resentful. This can, of course, negatively impact your relationship. “While getting annoyed you’ve been woken up or feeling worried about not being able to fall back asleep are commonplace, they only keep you up longer,” says Dr. Meadows. Instead, try practicing acceptance. Dr. Meadow’s Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for sleep teaches you how to change the way you think and feel about negative emotions rather than trying to change them. Look at your feelings as they arise in your body and describe their physical attributes such as shape, size, weight, color, and texture. “Describing your emotions like this takes away their power while preparing your mind and body for sleep,” he says.
Unless you are one of those very rare couples who can successfully fall asleep in each other’s arms and stay there all night, cuddling isn’t the best for falling asleep. “Cuddling can create issues, from a numb arm to overheating,” says Taylor. Instead, have an open conversation with your partner about when and where you cuddle. “Discuss having some snuggle time when you first get into bed but then choose the position you know works well for you and turn over and get a good night’s sleep,” she says.
Invest in your bed.
The right bed is vital, and some options can make sleeping a little easier. “Visit a bed expert — they specialize in recommending the ideal mattress for both you and your partners’ needs. You can also put two single mattresses in one double bed frame instead of one double mattress or push two separate single beds together. If you choose a double mattress, ensure that it is big enough, allowing enough room for each person to move around without disturbing the other one,” says Dr. Meadows.
Don’t forget the bedding.
Similarly, choosing the right type of bedding can also make a huge difference. Look to invest in separate bedding — including sheets, duvets, and blankets — for you and your partner. “This means you are less likely to be woken up by your partner when they tug the bedding,” says Dr. Meadows.
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