Why Sleeping Separately Can Work For Couples

by S. Nicole Lane
katleho Seisa/E+/Getty Images

It is often a challenge to get enough sleep — and being in a relationship can make getting a little shut-eye even more complicated. You're up later than your partner thinking about work; then, you’re too hot, too cold, you toss and turn, and eventually, start to scroll through your phone. Right then, when your eyes become heavy and your breathing more relaxed, the snoring from the other side of the bed begins, as suddenly as a light switch being flicked. You whisper your partner's name until they wake up, poke them in the shoulder until they roll over, or eventually, if you’re lucky, fall asleep to the rhythmic gurgles that echo through your queen size bed.

If you've been in a long-term relationship, you've probably been there. And most of us have just learned to succumb to the routine — roll with the punches, wake up tired, and smile about it all because you're with the one you love. Maybe the issue isn’t even snoring — maybe it's the size of the mattress, the temperature of the bedroom, the fact that one of you has an incessant desire for noise while the other craves silence, or possibly all of the above. But really, is falling asleep next to your partner just because that's how it is "supposed" to be truly that beneficial to your well-being, relationship, and mental health?

One in four couples don’t sleep in the same bed and that number may actually be even higher, since people aren't always forthcoming with this taboo information. For those of you who are shocked, you shouldn't be — while we might imagine couples sharing a bed to be a tradition that began in the caves of prehistory, in reality, the concept of partners sleeping together in a single bed wasn't introduced until the Industrial Revolution — prior to that, some families slept all together in a single bed, while other couples slept apart, depending on space and financial constraints. So, from a historical perspective, sleeping in close proximity is a fairly new way of living.

Yes, it's often considered the only socially acceptable form of slumber for couples — however, societal norms don't have to rule your life, relationship, and sleep pattern. So if sharing a bed with your partner is leaving you tired and unhappy every morning, why not consider trying a bed of your own? Read on for five reasons why sleeping alone might help you get a better night's rest — and become a better partner in the process.

1. Better Sleep Leads To A Better Attitude

Couples who share a bed have 50 percent more disrupted sleep than couples who sleep apart, says sleep expert Neil Stanley — and if the health problems associated with lack of sleep don't spook you enough (depression, heart disease, strokes, lung disorders, and accidents can all often be linked to poor sleeping patterns), think about the ways in which your lack of shut eye is probably contributing to a negative attitude towards you warm-bodied, cover-stealing, constantly snoring, significant partner. According to the Better Sleep Council, "adequate sleep improves attitudes, moods, and promotes feelings of self esteem and competence" — so sleeping apart can help you wake up in a better mood, lessening the chances of blame or conflict over sleeping problems.

2. It Won't Strain Your Relationship

Many folks fear that sleeping apart will put stress on their relationship, due to the cultural stereotype of unhappy couples who maintain separate beds. However, it pays to remember why you and your partner are sleeping apart. You aren't sleeping separately because you’re miserable or you're fighting with one another. You are sleeping apart because you want to improve your relationship by not having conflicts over the sleeping environment — because it is ludicrous to expect your partner to adhere to your schedule, or for you to suffer while they jack the air conditioner in the middle of December because they can't pass out unless they're freezing. If you're having issues that need to be discussed, don’t run away and hide in your space. Communication is still, and always will be, key.

But know that sleeping apart just means you’re aware of your separate and independent needs. You don't need to suffer through these mismatches in biology of lifestyle, just to prove that you like each other.

3. It Won't Lessen Your Quality Time Together

Believe it or not, intimacy goes beyond falling asleep in someones arms. Talking, asking questions, touching, and having a blast are always going to be vital for maintaining a strong relationship— you aren't going to be leading separate lives, just because you're falling asleep in separate rooms.

Sleeping apart also doesn't mean that after 9 p.m., you'll retreat to your side of the house, never to be seen again. You can still cuddle together in bed, read side by side, eat breakfast propped up against your pillows, or catch up on Scandal while huddled together in the dark. These details about your time together shouldn’t change. But ultimately, at the end of the night, someone rolls over and surrenders to sleep. Why not roll your way down the hallway into your own bed with nine more inches of sleeping room, a pleasant temperature, and all of the covers you would ever want to steal?

4. It’s Liberating

Everyone wants their own space and everyone wants their space to be unique and pertinent to their standards. Having time and space to simply exist in your own thoughts can be incredibly liberating and refreshing — especially in a culture that frequently expects people to surrender all autonomy when they become part of a couple. Cohabitation can mean sacrificing your solitude, so think of maintaining a separate sleeping space as a way to recharge for your partner and flounder with joy in your deep sea of blankets.

5. It Won't Ruin Your Sex Life

I don’t know about you, but in my relationship, sleeping in the same bed is not the thing that initiates sex. Let's be real: if you want sex, you're gonna have sex, whether you’re in the bedroom or not. And constantly being together does’t always correlate with having a great intimate life. Stephanie Coontz, a professor of history and sociology of marriages, says that the idea of our partners being “permanently turned on, permanently available — that if you sleep in another room, maybe you’re not very sexual — is just an unnecessary burden for modern couples.” If anything, sleeping apart can increase passion and libido, because it may lead you to not take your partner's presence for granted (or, you might just be in a better mood because you're sleeping more). Plus, your partner is only a bed room away. Nothing is stopping you from running in there and doing the deed.

So while you know best what's right for you, if you're having trouble getting a decent night's rest in a shared bed, consider giving separate beds a shot: No more nights spent waking up in a sweat, no more uncomfortable sleeping patterns, and for gods sake, no more societal standards to live up to (I've totally had enough of that). That sounds totally refreshing.

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