Sleeping separately – the Sleep Geek shares his views

Today, I’m treating you to an article written by James Wilson – the Sleep Geek – and founder of We Love Sleep, which was published earlier this month in Verita Magazine. Here he offers his thoughts on the topic of couples sleeping separately:

“I am often asked for my views on the best option for couples: to sleep side by side or to have separate beds or even separate rooms. My answer is always the same: you should do whatever helps you to sleep better.

In my experience, the main reason couples consider sleeping apart is due to one or both partners doing something that disturbs the other’s sleep. This could be snoring, hogging the duvet, sleep talking, wriggling and fidgeting, rolling towards your bed-mate or taking up too much bed space (some people sleep in a starfish shape, for example, which can leave little space for their partner to sleep comfortably!).

Sleep habits such as these can have a detrimental impact on relationships. The loss of sleep, for both partners, can cause frustration, stress, resentment and loss of intimacy. In such situations, it can sometimes feel that the only solution (to ensure good sleep and improve the relationship) is to sleep apart from your loved one, either in separate beds or bedrooms.

It is this blinkered line of thinking that is often repeated in the mainstream media and reinforced by advice from the Sleep Council (be aware that, despite its name, the Sleep Council’s main aim is to encourage you to buy more mattresses!).

Whilst sleeping separately might work for some couples, I do have some issues with this advice, not least the practical considerations. There is a presumption that our bedrooms are large enough to accommodate two beds and that we all have spare bedrooms to allow each partner to sleep comfortably in separate rooms. For many people, that’s just not the case.

Also, in my experience, couples want to sleep together, where possible, and only consider sleeping apart as a last resort. In fact, some people find it very difficult to sleep without their partner, because they feel less secure. I can identify with this since, when my girlfriend is away, I sleep lighter and my sleep is broken as I wake at any little sound. Feeling secure and relaxed is very important for a good quality night’s sleep. By sleeping separately, you could end up solving one problem but creating another. Sleeping together can also be important for maintaining a connection with your partner, and so sleeping apart can actually further damage your relationship.

My preferred approach is to focus on dealing with the key issue – the sleeping problem or habit that is creating the problem.

Below are some of [my] top tips to help you overcome the common problems that can make sleeping together a chore:

• Snoring – Of all the sleep problems I deal with, snoring has by far the most detrimental impact on relationships but can often be alleviated simply by changing your sleeping position (research indicates that over 60% of snorers will stop snoring or snore less when sleeping on their sides). While sleeping on your side sounds simple enough, the challenge is maintaining that sleeping position on your own once you fall asleep, but there are products available which help with this.

• Duvet hogging – If you’re unlucky enough to sleep with a duvet-stealer, simply invest in separate duvets. If you each have you own duvet, then your partner can’t pinch it from you!

• Restless sleeping (wriggling, fidgeting, tossing and turning) – Often those who suffer from restless sleep do so because they aren’t relaxed when they go to bed. Taking time to relax and unwind before bed is important for good quality sleep – try taking a bath or shower, reading a book or Yogic breathing techniques to help you prepare for sleep.

• Strange sleep positions – If your partner takes up too much space in the bed, buying a bigger bed and mattress can help. Did you know that a standard double bed only gives each partner 68cm width space in bed, whereas a cot bed gives a toddler 70cm? By having a bigger bed and mattress you and your partner are less likely to clash in the night and more likely to enjoy deep uninterrupted sleep. If this is not feasible, changing your sleeping position to side sleeping will help to keep you sleeping on your own side of the bed and will improve your sleeping posture too.

So, for any couples out there who are considering sleeping apart because of unwelcome sleeping habits, my advice is this: Sleeping separately is not the only option and can sometimes do more harm than good! Why not solve the root of the problem instead, and restore harmony to the bedroom and your relationship?”

Thanks James! For two more views on this interesting issue, check out this article in the Guardian newspaper: “Sleep apart, stay together”.

What do you think? Do you prefer to sleep alone or with your other half by your side?

Amy x


Comments

  1. Christie says:

    My hubby and I sleep in separate rooms. He snores so badly, and I am such a light sleeper, that I was waking up dozens of times a night to tell him him to roll over so he’d stop snoring. He wasn’t getting much sleep, and neither was I. I started to get migraines several times a week due to my lack of sleep. Since having separate bedrooms, we both get the sleep we need and it’s been wonderful!

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