How To Sleep Better When You Share A Bed, According To Science
Sleeping is amazing — and while relationships are great, the presence of another person in your bed-space can take time to get used to. If you get territorial over your share of duvet, or like stretching out like a starfish, you might be struggling with how to sleep better when you share a bed. Even if there are no such issues, though, partner-sleeping can cause sleep disturbances; around 6 percent of partnered couples sleep alone, according to a National Sleep Foundation survey, because of incompatibilities in scheduling, sleep styles or other issues. Before you buy a second mattress — which is a very viable solution unto itself — there are other options.
Data from mattress company Dream indicates that 25 percent of people in relationships argue with their partners in bed because of something that's preventing them sleeping. Like the curtains open while they demand total darkness? Can't compromise on a temperature? Dealing with a snore that could break glass? Sleeping incompatibility is common, and even if you're capable of sleeping together with utter harmony, it can still be odd to share sleeping space with another (moving, breathing) body at night. If you feel like giving up and sleeping on the couch, here are some tips to help you navigate co-sleeping in ways that won't kill your relationship or your rest.
1. Work Out Intimacy Compromises
If you're struggling to compromise on how much personal space you have in bed, sleep expert and psychologist Dr. Janet Kennedy tells Health, it's a good idea to articulate what you need. "One partner might like snuggling before bed and falling asleep in the other's arms, while the other feels crowded and can't relax unless he or she turns away. It's just a difference in sleep styles," Kennedy says. Once you determine what everybody needs, try to find a sleep style that works as a compromise. "Agree to cuddle until the snuggler drifts off, at which point the other person can retreat to their side of the bed and sleep solo for the rest of the night," she suggests.
2. Divide The Difference On The Thermostat
Sleep is highly affected by temperature, and everybody has their own comfortable range of degrees. But some might like it toasty hot, while others like it ice cold. The National Sleep Foundation recommends working it out mathematically. "If your partner likes the room on the cold side, you could use a separate comforter to keep warm. Or vice versa. Alternatively, if you like the room at 66 degrees and your partner likes it at 62, perhaps you can compromise on 64," they suggest. "Whatever you choose, it’s best to stick within the range of 60 to 67 degrees." Too hot and neither of you will sleep; too cold, and you'll suffer from shivers.
3. Reconsider Casual Sleepovers
Women seem to sleep better with partners in long-term relationships rather than those who are single or have just lost a partner, according to a study from the University of Pittsburgh in 2009. No, this isn't a reason for married women to feel smug; it's an insight into why you might find sleeping with a less stable partner a bit less restful. "As sleep is critical to health and longevity, this finding supports the idea that sleeping with a partner provides real health benefits," the Valley Sleep Center explains — and if you're not completely comfortable with them yet, sleepovers might not help your rest.
4. Get Help For Snoring
One partner's snoring can seriously affect your sleep. The Better Sleep Council recommends that snoring be dealt with progressively. "Because snoring can be part of a serious health issue, consult your physician first," they suggest. "If your partner’s snoring is run-of-the-mill, try investing in anti-snore pillows, sprays or nasal strips designed to help people breathe more easily. These products often alleviate the worst of the issue. And if your partner’s snoring persists, try foam earplugs before you try a different room."
5. Hack Your Bedroom Space
Tune your sleeping space to both your sleeping needs (yes, if they've basically moved into your place, that means making adjustments). It doesn't mean a full renovation, either. Eco-friendly mattress producer Amerisleep suggests small practical changes. "If you like to stay up and read, set up a nook on the other side of the room instead of reading in bed, where the light is more likely to disrupt your partner. If they have to get up earlier for work, have them lay out their clothes the night before and get ready in the bathroom," they advise. "Want to take things to the next level? Consider investing in a canopy bed with dark, heavy curtains to block outside light." These changes are cheap and easy, and help coordinate radically different sleep schedules and light needs.
6. Buy A Bigger Bed
Starting to share your bed for the first time in a while? A standard double might not cut it. "Did you know that a standard double bed (135cm x 190cm) only gives you and your partner the same space to sleep in as a cot?" says the Sleep Council. "With the average person tossing and turning up to 60 times a night you’re bound to be disturbed by a restless sleeper. You’d be amazed what a difference a king size (150cm x 200cm) can make even though it’s just 15cm wider and 10cm longer. Not only is it investment in your sleep, it’s investment for your relationship." And you'll always feel like you're sleeping in a luxurious hotel.
7. Update Your Bed In General
If your partner (or you) still finds sleeping together difficult and constant restless is disturbing both of you, try to identify the cause. Not down to light disturbance, temperature, snoring or being kept awake by their late reading? It could be your mattress. "If your mattress is uncomfortable, it can lead to restless sleep. Evaluate the comfort and support of your mattress every five to seven years to determine whether it’s the culprit," recommends the Better Sleep Council. New mattresses — on your king-size bed — will help everybody stretch out, feel supported, and sleep like angels.
The essence of dealing with sleep issues when snoozing with a partner, say experts, is talking about them and finding compromises. Not every solution is right for everybody, but with open communication, you can find something that works for all parties involved.