Happily Sleeping in Separate Beds?

For some couples, sleeping together is a cure for insomnia; for others, it's a cause. If you have trouble sleeping in the same bed as your partner, don't let it lead to more trouble in your relationship.

When the National Sleep Foundation polled adults about their sleep habits and conditions, about 25 percent of participants who are married or living with someone reported that they lose sleep because of their partner's sleep problems. Of these, some cope by using earplugs and eye masks, or by altering their own sleep schedule. Most of these respondents, however, said they have to move to a separate bed, a separate bedroom, or out to the couch if they want to get a good night's sleep.

Losing sleep for any reason is problematic; losing sleep because of someone else's issues can be even more so. Fatigue is one of the most common causes of decreased sex drive. It is also associated with increased pain, depression and anxiety, any of which are likely to interfere with sex and intimacy. Simply put, a good night's sleep is essential for everyone's health and well-being.

As with any problem, communication is key to finding a resolution. If your partner's tossing, turning, snoring, kicking and otherwise restless sleep is an ongoing problem for you, the smartest first thing to do is talk about it. Avoiding the topic could lead to more loss of intimacy and sexual contact and make it much more difficult to find a solution that works if you become less emotionally available to your partner. If your partner has a physical issue, such as snoring, sleep apnea, or restless leg syndrome, you can work together to find out how to fix it. If one of you has an emotional issue, discussing the problem may lead to finding a therapist who can help you work it out.

Beverly Hills family therapist Allison Cohen says separate beds are not a symbol of a dysfunctional relationship if they lead to healthier interaction between couples. Instead of tearing you apart, separate beds may bring you closer together because you'll be happier, have more energy and perhaps even have some much needed privacy.

Some couples choose to sleep in separate beds, or even separate rooms, for reasons other than one partner's restless sleep habits.  Being on different schedules, having different sleep styles, different comfort levels and one partner enjoying late night TV more than the other are just some of the reasons why some couples choose to sleep separately, either some nights or every night. But if the thought of sleeping separately is more than you can bear, there may be other solutions. For instance, you could buy your partner a set of headphones, or try upgrading to a much bigger bed!



Allison Cohen, MA, MFT

National Sleep Foundation. "Sleep Problems/Disorders and Relationship." 2005 Sleep in America Poll. 29 Mar 2005. Web. 28 Dec 2010.