It's no secret that I am a snuggler to the infinite power. If it were up to me, cuddling would be de rigueur for all sleeping partners. It has been brought to my attention that not everyone feels this way. In fact, turns out that everyone has totally different sleeping preferences, which makes for an interesting process when it comes to getting used to sleeping next to someone new. There's even something called "sleep compatibility," which apparently is just a fancy term for the fact that cuddlers do best with fellow cuddlers, white noise–fans should migrate toward other white noise–fans, and no one wants to sleep with a snorer.
The question of how to sleep next to someone comfortably is definitely an issue for plenty of couples. I've certainly been guilty of all kinds of offenses, including but not limited to blanket hogging, aggressive snuggling, taking up too much space, waking up in the middle of the night and freezing feet. I am not a perfect bed companion — but then, who is?
Here are a few tried and true methods I've used to get more comfortable with sleeping next to another human being. One note: Above all, a good old-fashioned conversation is the best way to go on all fronts. Express your needs, allow your partner to do the same, and find a middle ground if necessary for these eight sleep issues.
I'm pretty vocal about my cuddle preferences, as they're undeniable and will make themselves known once sleep takes me anyway — might as well be upfront. It's smart to have a quick discussion with your new partner about their cuddling preferences vs. yours. It may be disappointing to learn that your new squeeze is anti and you're pro (high five), but it's best to know right away.
If you've somehow hit the jackpot and are dating someone who loves (or hates) cuddling as much as you do, props. For the other 90 percent of us, see if you can find a compromise — snuggle as you fall asleep and when you wake up, but retreat to separate sides for the duration of sleeping hours, perhaps. Or cuddle hard a few nights a week and leave the rest of the nights for solo sleep time. Compromise is key.
2. Light Sensitivity
I sleep with a silk eye mask very similar to this one. I'm obsessed with it. I bought one for my mom and I would buy one for everyone I know, given the chance. Since I'm not rolling in billz, all I can do is recommend it and promise it's a Jackson well spent. Though I prefer a darkened bedroom, I can fall asleep even if my partner wants to stay up late with his book. Problem solved.
3. Noise Sensitivity
I like a quiet room. I live in Brooklyn. Guess what? Those two are not mutually compatible! At about 7 a.m. when construction workers arrive next door to continue erecting a new building (right now: foundation-pouring in progress) and my roommate launches out of bed like a wild early bird, I click on a small but high-powered fan next to the bed, which drowns out the pandemonium. Others prefer a white noise machine. Still others like quiet music or the TV going all night. There are always headphones or earplugs, but that sounds horrible. Some swear by them, though.
I have been known to have trouble falling asleep. My favorite fix: Tara Brock's amazing meditation podcasts, which pack a one-two punch of calming me down and putting me to sleep. (They are also very helpful during the day, when you're actually trying to meditate.) See if your partner is down to pop on a meditation podcast (or a podcast of any kind — I have a friend who swears by This American Life for sleep-bait) to accelerate the sleep vibes and decelerate the stress of the day.
I want to be warm at all times. One of my least favorite things in life is waking up freezing in the middle of the night. Cannot abide. If your partner happens to be an air conditioning aficionado and you'd rather die than be cold, a talk is in order. It may come to sleeping in a hat like old men of yore; do whatever it takes to stay warm. I'm famous for sleeping in a sweater or a scarf. NBD.
Night attire — or lack thereof — is vital in the sleep comfortability spectrum. If you're having a slumber party with someone new, BYO jammies. Your future sleep-self will thank you if you slip a pair of silk pajamas, a nightgown or whatever you prefer into your overnight bag before jetting off to your boo's place. Conversely, if you prefer to go au naturel as you snooze, let your partner know. They probably won't complain.
Thankfully, I am delighted to say that I am not a snorer, nor have I ever had to contend with one. But if you happen to be one, never fret: There are plenty in your ranks. Some have to resort to not sleeping next to a snorer altogether — AKA sleeping in different beds or different rooms — which sounds very sad to me. There are treatments for snoring, so that may be one way to go. In any event, if snoring is in your definite future, you should tell your new sleep mate. It may be a little embarrassing, but it's better to keep them informed — plus, they'll discover your little secret anyway. If you let the cat out of the bag, at least they know you know about it. And if it's you vs. a snorer, there's always those earplugs or a white noise machine.
8. Conflicting Sleep Schedules
If you're more of an early-to-bed, early-to-rise kinda gal and your partner likes to stay up until 3 a.m. every night, this can create an issue. The problem arises only if you are woken easily and/or have trouble falling asleep again. If this is an occasional thing, you could ask your partner to sleep in another room (but my inner snuggler loathes this suggestion). In general, this is a case-by-case situation: Ideally, you'd both adjust your schedules so as to fall asleep around the same time.
Same goes for the morning: If your partner rises at the crack of dawn for work and you get to sleep till 10 (lucky you), ask your partner to sneak out of bed — you could even invest in a vibrating watch for them (or for you, if you're the unlucky dawn-riser). If you're engaged in an active snuggle when the watch sets off its alarm, though, beware: You'll vibrate awake along with your partner. But maybe you'll be OK with it, since you'll be in such a good mood from all of the cuddling.
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