Sometimes the only difference between me and a rampaging grizzly bear is a good night's sleep. Before I learned a few key hacks for when your partner is a terrible bed sharer, I had more rampaging grizzly days that I'd like to admit. And I'm not just talking about my attitude. I'm talking about being a full-on crazy-haired, semi-useless human being who is a danger to innocent bystanders. I say "useless human being" because last time I checked, bears were not very good at cultivating freelance writing careers.
Sleep is more important than you think in a relationship. When I worked with couples as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, I learned that a startling number of couples didn't sleep in the same bed, or did sleep together, but harbored deep resentment for years of crappy sleep. I get it. My spouse likes to take all the covers and roll up into a heat burrito, then put her sweaty, sticky face in my frozen, irritated face. And it's not just her. I snore like a freight train. Like two freight trains sometimes. But we've used some of these sleep hacks to create a more harmonious bed. You can do it, too! Because nobody wants to be in a relationship with a rampaging bear. No matter how fluffy it seems. Well, unless bear play is your thing. But that's a whole different article.
1. Get An Extra Blanket
Nothing makes me temporarily want a divorce than when my spouse rolls over and takes all the covers with her. So annoying! (Breathe in, breathe out.) But there's an easy, non-divorce solution to this problem. I got my own blanket. I have mine, she has hers, and there's a nice, pretty duvet on top that conceals our two-blanket divide and gives her something to steal. Everyone wins. Sometimes she still gets a hold of my blanket when she's in a blanket death roll, but I will defend it for dear life knowing that no matter how much I pull on my blanket, it won't be robbing her of any delicious, cozy sleep warmth. Though sometimes when I pull too hard on my blanket, I accidentally punch myself in the face, but there's not much I can do about that. Anyway, this trick should be taught in high schools as part of mandatory life skills training. It saves lives.
2. Evict Your Pets
My dog is the love of my life. I will step in front of a train to save his fluffy fur face from danger. But I will not share my bed with him. This was a really hard habit to break because there are few things in life better than a bed full of cozy animals. That is, until they take over the bed, refuse to move, snore in your face, then grumble at you when you try to move your numb leg to some impossible position in order to find that last unoccupied inch of mattress. Plus my spouse has a dog, too, and he likes to sleep in my butt. No, really, he has to curl up right under my cheeks and lay there like a cement log. Nope. Not having it. We will have cuddly petting time, then when it's time for lights out, the fur boys have to retire to their way-too-expensive pet beds. It's like a miracle of better sleep if you can stand the brutal adjustment and training period. It help (if you have small pets) to have a bed that's too high for them to jump up on. Crate training helps with this, too.
3. Get A Silent Alarm
My wife has to wake up at 3:00 a.m. for work. Oh hell no. Sometimes I'm not even ready to go to sleep until then. And when I do fall asleep at a somewhat reasonable time, it's only a few hours until her alarm would screech into my face like a Grim Reaper of sleep. But did you know that there are silent alarms? Right! One of best solutions we've found is a vibrating wrist watch alarm. It vibrates hard enough to wake even a deep sleeper, but not hard enough to wake up that deep sleeper's partner. It's a thing of beauty. Well, beauty sleep, I should say.
Lark Silent Alarm Clock, $48, Amazon.com
4. Stagger Your Sleep Times
If I fall asleep first, my snoring, tossing, turning and sleep talking keeps my partner from falling asleep. But if she falls asleep first, it's not a problem. The solution is to stagger our sleep times. For you, this might mean going to bed earlier or later than your partner. For us, as we work on more consistent sleep routines, it means I read until she's solidly out. On the other hand, if one partner coming to bed later than the other is the issue, you can work to change your bedtime routines so you both go to be at the same time, or if you can, invest in a memory foam mattress that doesn't distribute movements, so you can get in and out without waking anyone up.
5. Address The Snoring
Snoring is probably the most frustrating sleep problem. A snoring partner can wake you up and disrupt your sleep cycle dozens of times a night. The first step is to see your doctor. Snoring can be a by-product of sinus or breathing issues, or serious conditions such as sleep apnea. You may need throat sprays, nasal sprays, allergy medicines, nose strips, humidifiers, oxygen machines, or sometimes surgery. In the meantime, you can put a tennis ball in the back of your pajamas to prevent you from sleeping on your back. You snore more, and louder, when you sleep on your back.
6. Create Cuddle Boundaries
Even the clingiest, most affectionate person by day can demand a hands-off approach to sleep. Cuddling creates heat and sweat. Limbs go numb. You can end up with stale breath in your face, inhaling your partner's hair, and waking them up with your sleep movements. Some people find it super annoying. Set aside a chunk of time when you first get in bed to snuggle. Or get your snuggle in the evening when you're watching TV or reading. Then establish some rules about late night cuddles so your partner doesn't get mad when you pull away.
7. Make Better Sleep Routines
Creating routines is a part of good sleep hygiene. Your brain is very good at recognizing sleep routines, and preparing your body to rest. If you and your partner create good sleep routines, they're likely to help you fall asleep consistently and sleep better. Your routines could be as simple as putting on your pajamas, then making tea or as complex as a string of habits and day prep that starts at dinner and ends with you tucked in after doing chores, putting kids to bed, reading, and putting on lotion. Get your routines in sync with your partners to maximize their efficacy.
Hopefully some of these hacks will keep your inner grizzly in its cave. And keep your relationship on its rails.