- Surveys indicate that more couples are considering “sleep divorce” by moving to different beds or bedrooms.
- The purpose is to make sure that everyone can get some good shut-eye, even when one half of the couple is a snorer.
- Experts say the arrangement can work out well for some couples, but that in others it may be a red flag of underlying issues.
The master bedroom is sacrosanct for many couples. It’s a place for retreat and reconnection, intimacy and bonding.
At least, until someone starts to snore.
Today, sleep-deprived couples say they’d be willing to file for a “sleep divorce” — opting to catch their nightly Zzz’s apart from one another, all in the name of health.
One half of one of those couples is licensed therapist and health and wellness coach Rachel Gersten, who sleeps in a separate bed from her husband.
“I truly believe one of the reasons I stay married is that I don’t have to share a bed with my husband,” Gersten told Healthline. “Between my chronic pain and being a light sleeper, and my husband’s desire to sleep much less than I do — and sleeping loudly to my light ears — it’s much easier for us just to sleep in separate beds.”
Research is more clear than ever about the vital importance of sleep for overall health. As a result, the idea of a sleep divorce may feel less foreign to many couples.
After all, poor sleep quality and sleep deprivation have been linked to weight gain, car accidents, poor immune response, depression, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and emotional health issues.
What’s more, a 2017 study found that couples who get too little sleep (less than seven hours per night, as defined by these researchers) are more likely to have marital spats and become hostile to one another.
Their stress-related inflammation is also higher, which could lead to many chronic health problems.
“There are plenty of theories behind ‘sleep divorce,’” said Bill Fish, a certified sleep science coach. “One is that people are now getting married a bit later in life than say 30 years ago. Our bodies are creatures of habit, preferring both structure and routine. 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.”
He continues, “People are also putting a much greater emphasis on sleep — rightfully so as sleep is now considered the third pillar of wellness to go along with diet and exercise.”
Experts say snoring is one of the leading causes of sleep divorce. One partner struggles to sleep through the cranks and crackles of their noisy partner, while the other sleeps blissfully in oblivion.
But bedroom preferences can also strike up discord. One partner likes the room ice cold; the other a bit warmer. One finds they can’t rest with a single speck of light; the other prefers to leave the TV on all night. One is an early riser; the other prefers to sleep until the last second.
The reasons why couples decide they need to sleep separately are as varied as the couples who take the plunge to split their sleeping arrangements. But for those that do it, there may be an everlasting benefit.
“The bottom line is: I love sleep and my own health,” Gersten said. “After many sleepless nights between two incompatible people, we finally decided it wasn’t worth it. My husband can go to bed late and snore all he wants, and I’m able to get a much better night’s sleep. And we are honestly happily married.”
The bedroom is frequently a place for couples to spend time alone — a sanctuary amid a house filled with raucous children or busy work lives that are demanding of every moment of attention.
Can couples recover intimacy if they decide to separate?
It depends on why they’re separating, says Margo Regan, a relationship therapist.
“In my experience, there are certain times when it may be necessary, such as when a baby is born or there is excessive noise from a snoring partner. However, it can also create distance in a couple and can be a way to avoid or close off connection with a partner,” Regan said.
“It can sometimes be a symptom of a deeper issue in the relationship, such as conflict or growing apart or loss of connection,” she added.
If you can’t stand to be in the same bed as your partner because of their snoring, consider that it may be sign of an underlying health issue, such as obstructive sleep apnea. It can be treated well with the use of a CPAP machine.
The same goes for people who kick or move frequently in their sleep. This could be a sign of restless leg syndrome, which can be treated with medicine.
Perhaps you like a harder bed and your partner likes a softer one. Mattress companies today will gladly customize a bed for you and your partner that satisfy the needs of both and hopefully will help you find some P.M. peace.
After all, sleeping with a partner has some psychological benefits, according to
If you’re asking for a sleep divorce because you’re wanting to get less face time with your partner, then some red flags should be flying, Regan says.
“I think it’s important to look at your motivations for doing it. Is it to ‘get away’ or ‘withdraw’ from your partner? Is it a way of trying to claim more ‘me time’ in the relationship? If so, perhaps there are other ways this can be done,” Regan said.
In that case, consider talking with a therapist about the events or feelings that have led you to want to ask for a sleep divorce. Marriage counseling or individual therapy may be in order to work out other sorts of underlying issues.
“Couples should, without question, weigh the pros and cons before moving to separate beds,” Fish said.
Sleep divorce may be a highly beneficial choice — at least, if you’re doing it for the right reasons, says Celia Schweyer, a dating and relationship expert at DatingScout.com.
“There are some couples that find this type of arrangement to be the best set up for them. They can still maintain intimacy and make the relationship work,” Schweyer said.
But recognize the potential problems — from reduced intimacy to communication problems.
Schweyer concludes, “The bottom line here really is, sleeping separately can work for some and not for others.”