We all know that getting a good night of sleep is necessary for health, happiness, and just general functioning — but so many things get in the way. And not getting enough sleep can have a major impact on a relationship.
“Research shows that adults need at least seven hours of sleep,” Sarah Watson, licensed professional counselor and sex therapist, tells Bustle. “When we don't get enough sleep we tend to be short tempered, have increased anxiety or mood swings and this can impact your connection with your partner.”
But sometimes a partner is the reason people are not getting enough sleep. A new survey of 1,000 people from Mattress Online, a UK-based mattress website, found that many of couples struggle with their partner's bedtime manner — and it's keeping them awake. It's leading to couples going to bed at different times and even getting sleep divorces, where couples have separate sleeping arrangements.
Relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, tells Bustle that, with how important sleep is, there's definitely a strong argument for sleep divorces. "I think that if a couple has access to an extra bed, there’s nothing wrong with taking a little 'sleep vacation' now and then," Hartstein says. "Just make sure to continue to make time for cuddling, intimacy, sex, and pillow talk!"
Having incompatible sleep schedules doesn't have to be the end of the world for a relationship. “If it is not possible to go to bed at the same time, you can still both get into bed together for a period of time — to cuddle, talk, and/or engage in sexual activity,” Dr. Rachel Needle, licensed psychologist and certified sex therapist in West Palm Beach, FL, and the co-director of Modern Sex Therapy Institutes, tells Bustle. “Then, the partner who is going to stay up can get out of bed after you have had some time to connect.” And, if you have to, moving to separate beds might be the right answer — just as long as you're getting quality time elsewhere.
But what's driving couples to sleep divorces? And how are they affecting relationships? Here's what the survey found.
But 17% Happen In The First 5 Years
Some coupes know right away that they're not compatible in the sleep department. Around 17 percent of those surveyed would consider a sleep divorce in the first five years, with three percent saying they'd be open to it after less than one year.
Over One Third Of Couples Go To Sleep At Different Times
Why are there so many sleep divorces? It turns out, one third of couples go to sleep at different times. And no matter how quiet someone might think they're being as they crawl into or out of bed, chances are it's far more obvious — and that their partner is being disrupted.
27% Are Kept Up By Their Partner Every Single Night
Sleep disruption isn't an issue that just happens once in a while, in fact almost 30 percent of those surveys said that their partner keeps them awake every single night. When you think of the cumulative sleep loss that could cause, it's easy to see why people end up at the end of their tether.
28% Suffer About Once A Week
An additional 28 percent of those surveyed said their partner keeps them up once a week — but one bad night of sleep can still lead to a tetchy morning.
Snoring And Blanket Hogging Are The Main Offenders
Why are people being kept awake? Snoring was the biggest culprit, with 53 percent of women and 41 percent of men surveyed pointing to it as their main issue, while 30 percent of men and 24 percent of women said that their partner hogged the duvet.
25% Said That Sleep Incompatibilities Were The Biggest Source Of Their Arguments
While it wasn't as common as money — which over 30 percent mentioned — a quarter couples said that their partner keeping them up at night was the main source of their relationship stress. So keeping each other up can really wreck havoc on a relationship.
It's easy to see why night after night without a good night's sleep would lead couples to a sleep divorce. If that seems too extreme, there's also the option of semi-sleep divorces — where couples don't sleep apart every night, but do some nights. “If there’s an inconsistency with sleep schedules, you can work out schedules of nights together and nights apart to allow proper rest and recharge,” Dr. Benjamin Smarr, National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley and Reverie sleep advisory board member, tells Bustle.
Of course, addressing the source of the disruption — whether that's light or sound — is another option. "If an extra bed is not available it’s definitely worth it to take extra sleep-happy measures such as ear plugs, eye shades, and limiting screens before bed," Hartstein says. "Some of those anti-snoring devices are worth a try too!" There are plenty of remedies to choose from, like peppermint oil, nostril openers, and even anti-snore pillows.
The most important thing is for couples to make sure that they're communicating and keep respecting each other's needs. Couples can't control each other's sleep habits, but they can control how they deal with it.