How Couples Can Help Each Other To Get Enough Sleep
It is extremely difficult to get a decent amount of rest every night. So what can you and your partner do to encourage each other to get more sleep? If you're in a relationship with someone, you know that your partner can go both ways — they can be a fun distraction, and the two of you can wind up staying awake later than you should, or, on a good day, they can help you get to sleep earlier than usual, and you can do the same for them.
The real question, though, is how to set it up so that you support your partner, your partner supports you, and everyone gets enough sleep on a regular basis, because we all know that an exhausted person is a whole lot less enjoyable to be around — and a whole lot less enjoyable to be. As it turns out, research shows that couples who don't get enough sleep tend to argue more, so science actually backs this one up. According to researcher Amie Gordon, who worked on a study on the matter for UC Berkley, "Couples who fight more are less happy and less healthy." Well, yes — we didn't need an expert to tell us that. “Our research helps illuminate one factor that leads couples to engage in unnecessary and harmful conflict by showing that couples experience more frequent and severe conflicts after sleepless nights," she adds. Ah, enlightening!
The National Sleep Foundation says the average person needs seven to nine hours of sleep per night, by the way. And if you don't get that many zzz's per night, you might feel less close to your partner, less secure in your relationship, and attribute fewer positive emotions to your partnership, according to a 2007 study published in Sleep Medicine Reviews.So, yeah — go to bed.
I asked a gang of relationship experts how you can best attempt to make a nice, relaxing environment with yourself and your partner and finally get enough sleep, and they all had a lot of interesting things to say. Above all, step away from the electronics — but you already knew that. Here, experts reveal what they suggest you and your partner do to get ready for more sleep on the regs.
1. Set A Bedtime
"Set bedtimes and hold each other accountable," life coach Kali Rogers tells Bustle. "A lot of couples make pacts to go to bed at the same time for many beneficial reasons, and if the other doesn't quite feel like going to bed, they can read or entertain themselves in the bedroom instead of staying up."
If you have an actual bedtime, you have a goal, rather than just saying, "Let's try to sleep earlier tonight" or whatever. "Either way, it allows both parties to wind down and get in the habit of going to bed at a decent hour," she says. And if you keep an eye on the clock, you'll have a way higher chance of actually hitting a regular sleep time.
2. Do Something Relaxing
"Evening massages, tea, relaxation, and reading can do the trick when settling in for the evening," executive editor and founder of Cupid's Pulse Lori Bizzoco tells Bustle. In other words, don't just go, go go — and then hop into bed and expect to fall asleep. Though screen time is a bad idea for promoting sleep, TV or movies can be relaxing for some. "Couples often end the evening watching their favorite television show together," Bizzoco says. If that works for you and doesn't wind you up, go for it.
3. Read Aloud
"To encourage sleep and intimacy, take turns reading poetry or a book out loud," zen psychotherapist and neuromarketing strategist Michele Paiva tells Bustle. "Dedicate to read one chapter a night, and discuss it a little after." So sweet — this is one of my personal favorite things — and very calming. "The reading out loud will feel nurturing and allow both partners to breathe in a steady manner that encourages relaxation," Paiva says. "If you each give each other a hand massage also, that is light and nurturing as well, and increases the feeling of sleep." Sounds absolutely dreamy.
4. Make A Bedroom Contract
"Make a bedroom contract — no screens at all, and keep each other in check," Boston-based clinical psychologist Bobbi Wegner tells Bustle. Though it's hard to keep phones out of the bedroom, make it a priority. And Wegner suggests that you try that bedtime goal that Rogers spoke of. "Make a commitment to go to bed together, and agree have the person who goes to bed the earliest set the time," Wegner says. And then really, really try to stick to it.
5. No Electronics In The Bedroom
"Get electronics out of the bedroom," New York–based relationship expert and author April Masini tells Bustle. "You probably don’t realize how damaging your [phones] and computers are to your sleep — let alone the old fashioned television." We're all so used to screens everywhere that most of us don't think twice about having them around while we're getting in bed, but Masini, like many experts, finds that to be a terrible idea.
"Having technology in your bedroom is like having a satellite campus of Grand Central Station running through your California King," she says. "Make the bedroom a haven and you and your partner will sleep better and be happier." No one wants to invite Grand Central into their bedroom — trust me.
6. Try A Combination Of Calm
"Read a book to each other in bed," Gestalt life coach Nina Rubin tells Bustle, echoing Paiva's suggestion. It really is calming! "Have more sex at night by getting into bed earlier," Rubin continues. And don't forget to leave the electronics somewhere else in the house! "Limit the phone time to outside of the bedroom," Rubin says. No exceptions.
7. Find A Nighttime Ritual
"You can set a nighttime routine," psychologist Nicole Martinez, who is the author of eight books, including The Reality of Relationships , tells Bustle. "You can agree to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day of the week." If you shoot for the same times every day, you'll sleep more soundly — and you'll wake feeling more rested.
"Remove the television from the bedroom, as it is only for sleep and sex," she says. "Removing it helps your mind tell you that it is time for rest," she says. "No electronics in the bedroom. This means no tablets, phones, or anything you can read or play games on while you are trying to go to sleep." There's a reason for it, of course: "These actually stimulate the mind and keep you awake," she says.
8. Try Compromise
"If your schedules are in sync, going to bed when you are tired and inviting your partner to join you works great," psi counselor Laurel Clark tells Bustle. "If you are opposites — one of you is a night owl and the other an early bird — you might compromise — one of you goes to bed a little earlier and the other stays up a bit later."
But if you don't want to go to bed together, there are other options. "You could plan time together when you're both alert — like early evening — and allow the early bird to go to bed early while the night owl uses the alone time to catch up on emails and other alone projects," she says. "Then the early bird does the same in the early morning while the night owl is snoozing." Either way, be sure that you're both supporting each other's quest to sleep more.
9. Go To Bed By This Time
"I make sure that we are in the bed by 9 p.m.," author and relationship expert Alexis Nicole White tells Bustle. What a life! While this is totally impractical for 99 percent of the people I know, if you can pull this off, more power to you. If not, keep in mind her other suggestions, which include being sure that she and her partner "are not up eating, answering emails, etc.," she says.
10. Talk About How Your Day Went
"Start preparing for bed early," Tina B. Tessina, aka Dr. Romance, psychotherapist and author of How to Be Happy Partners: Working it out Together, tells Bustle. "Turn off the TV and computer, which stimulate you, and have a nice, quiet conversation before bed." It's always nice to check in with a partner before sleep and hear all about their day, and share yours. "Go over your respective days, and share what happened," Tessina says. "Then get into bed, relax for a little bit, and you'll both fall asleep." Voila!
11. Chill With The Booze
For good measure, step away from the margaritas as well. "Agree to no drinking alcohol several hours before bed," Martinez says. "While people believe the fallacy that a few drinks unwinds them and helps them relax and sleep better, the truth is that it creates restless sleep." If you can put this all together, you'll be on a better track.
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