7 Scientific Reasons Why You May Have Difficulty Sleeping Next To Someone In Bed
No matter how much you love your partner, no matter how compatible you seem, sharing a bed with someone else can be a real struggle. It can really take away from the romance when, after a few nights together, you're both so sleep deprived you can hardly see straight. If you've been through it, you're definitely not alone. "If you have slept in your own bed your entire life, sleeping with someone else in the same bed is a huge deviation from what you are accustomed to, so your body naturally wants to fight it," Bill Fish, certified sleep science coach and co-founder of Tuck, tells Bustle. "We also get used to not having to deal with interruptions of any sort. Now, whether it is snoring, tossing and turning, or physically touching your body, it takes getting used to."
The science shows that sharing a bed with someone else can have a huge impact. In fact, even if one of you has always been a solid sleeper, starting to share a bed can mess with that schedule. "A 2017 study found that when couples share a bed, they are more likely to share similar sleep patterns," Martin Reed, a certified clinical sleep health expert, tells Bustle. "So, if your partner struggles with sleep, you are more likely to struggle with sleep, too."
What makes it so tricky to share a bed with someone else? Here's why you might struggle with it, according to science.
1. Their Body Temperature Is Disruptive
Bodies are hot — and for some people, that can be a real problem. "Many people have a particular need for sleeping cooler than others," clinical psychologist and sleep doctor Dr. Michael Breus, tells Bustle. "In general, we know that a cooler environment will be better for falling and staying asleep. Having a person whose body temperature is 98.6 degrees next to you, or worse, touching you, will cause a potential disruption." You can flip to the cool side of the pillow as much as you want, but their body is still going to work like a furnace.
2. You Have Different Circadian Rhythms
One issue that many people have experienced is finding that their partner has a different circadian rhythm — or body clock — than they do. "Another thing that can make sleeping with a partner difficult is going to bed at different times," Chris Brantner, sleep expert and founder of SleepZoo, tells Bustle. "On average, couples stop going to bed at the same time around three years or so into the relationship. In fact, 75 percent of couples don't go to bed together. That time when you fall asleep together is crucial for intimacy. In fact, research shows that couples whose sleep patterns are mismatched report more disagreement, less serious conversation, and less sex — all of which can affect sleep quality."
It can also be tricky to go to bed at different times without waking up your partner. "And not only that, when you go to bed after your partner, you're likely to disturb their sleep by making noise, turning on lights, etc," Brantner says. "And getting into bed can disturb them as you move around to get settled."
3. Your Brain Interprets Something "New" As Threatening
Even if you and your partner love sharing a bed, the new sleeping arrangement may be causing you a type of stress. "Your bed partner is causing you to feel stressed," Dr. Els van der Helm, Founder of Shleep, tells Bustle. "If it's a 'new' bed partner, maybe you're worried about things and hence stressed. Or perhaps you're in a new environment (sleeping at your bed partner's place not your own), which could be causing stress."
This stress is important, because it can put your body on high alert. "Why is stress so bad for sleep?" Dr. van der Helm says. "Your brain is quite 'old', in that it still interprets stress as you being in physical danger (as opposed to 'just being stressed about work'). Whenever your brain suspects physical danger (so whenever you experience any stress) it will de-prioritize sleep. Instead, it wants you to be physically safe. Therefore, it'll keep you awake or prevent you from getting into deep restorative sleep." Until your brain understands that it's a safe sleeping arrangement, it may be keeping you awake.
5. Motion Transfer Keeps You Awake
You might not have heard of mattress motion transfer, but it could be keeping you up. "Perhaps the biggest reason is that you don't have the right mattress," Brantner says. "Motion transfer is a big thing here, as the wrong bed will let you feel every time your partner moves, which can wake you if you're a light sleeper." Having incompatible sleeping positions can also make it difficult to drift off or stay asleep.
6. New Noises Are More Disruptive
Your partner probably makes noises, whether they're big or small, and those can keep you awake. "Your bed partner is simply making noises, noises you're not used to and this might cause you to wake up," Dr. van der Helm says. Though snoring can definitely keep you awake, it can also just be the shuffling or breathing noises that they make.
7. Their Electronics Disrupt Your Sleep Cycle
It's no surprise that electronics can mess with your sleep — but now you have someone else's phone and electronic use to worry about. "Lights and electronics can be problematic if partners are on a different schedule," Ginger Houghton, LMSW, CAADC, owner of Bright Spot Counseling, tells Bustle. "As electronics and light exposure make it more difficult to sleep, it’s important that couples have a buffer zone around bedtime to be respectful of each other’s sleep habits." You might want to move those phones out of the bedroom.
There are a lot of reasons that your partner might disrupt your sleep, which can be frustrating in a relationship. The good news? "Sharing a bed will take some getting used to, but once you are familiar with the experience it will begin to get easier," Fish says. Try to make some compromises on room temperature, bedtimes, and electronic use — eventually, you may find that you can both get those full eight hours and wake up feeling rested and refreshed.