June 14, 2024

Advanced Ailment Care

Elevating Health Solutions

Rise of The Sleep Divorce

6 min read

I woke up to a jolt, feeling like I was on a ship that just got slammed by a wave. I sat up in a sweat, wondering what happened, or if there was a break-in attempt. Then I heard a hiss next to me, “Stop!”

In the haze of sleep and darkness, I said, “Huh?” I was utterly confused.

It was my spouse, Laura. Then, she hissed, “Stop it! You are breathing right into my ear! And you are on my half of the bed!”

At least once a week, our otherwise great relationship has a frustrating night like this, where one of us, or I should say, Laura, wakes up from my loud breathing into her ear, my throat “clicking” or good old fashioned snoring. I suppose I sleep like a grizzly, and it does interrupt both of our sleep.

In the 19th century, doctors advised that couples sleep in separate beds. And it was common for spouses to have two twin beds in the same room next to each other. It began for superstitious reasons, about one person’s health and vitality being impeded upon by the other, but then evolved into a more scientific understanding of sleep quality. A tradition of sleeping in separate beds continued until the 1950s for many, until we returned to the long established practice of sharing the bedroom.

This isn’t conducive to many marriages. As while I sleep alone, I do love waking up with my spouse next to me, and even reaching over to put my hand on her when we are sleeping.

But a new trend in sleeping separately is rapidly taking hold. The sleep divorce is upon us. So, should we sleep separately? And why or why not?

Rise of the sleep divorce

The fact remains that sleep is a supercharged portion of our lives. Bryan Johnson, the tech billionaire who is researching techniques to slow down aging via Project Blueprint said nothing affects his wellbeing more than sleep. Not his diet, his relationship, or anything has performed as well as the power of quality sleep. He is one of many who are vowing that, no matter who they are married to, they will share separate beds.

Per a 2023 study by the Academy of Sleep Medicine, one third of people say they sleep in separate rooms occasionally or consistently. And thus, it’s likely many of you fit this statistic, or at least know someone who does. My parents sleep in adjacent bedrooms every night because they keep each other up while sleeping, with competing snoring competitions. My grandparents did the same thing.

Melania and Donald Trump, unsurprisingly, sleep in separate beds. I won’t pile on with the easy opportunity to make jokes here. But will note they are the first presidential couple to do so openly.

There’s some evidence to suggest this is the right path—for the relationship. A study led by psychologist Dr. Stephanie J. Wilson, of Saint Mary’s University, found that when two people are sleep deprived, it increases the inflammatory response in the body, and causes couples to fight more aggressively, and frequently with each other.

Which is entirely unsurprising. You can think of bad sleep as setting the chemical preconditions for dysfunction in a relationship (hence why raising small children often invokes so much strain on young couples).

What’s worse is that being fatigued can increase your negative perception of the relationship relative to how it actually is. So you get stuck in this vicious cycle of sleeping bad, fighting more, and perceiving the relationship as worse than it actually is. It is simply an extension of how fatigue makes everything worse.

So if sleeping in separate beds makes the relationship stronger, why not have at it? I’ve long struggled to see how people can sleep smiling, while also spooning each other all night like they do in those sleep mattress commercials.

It isn’t black and white though

There is competing research, at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, which has shown that some people sleep better with their partner in the bed with them, having lower rates of depression, anxiety, and greater life satisfaction. But this survey could also be saying more about the individual than the practice of sleeping. Moreover, the people who had healthy, loving relationships may have been sleeping better as a consequence of the relationship.

Know that your mileage may vary, and one statistic isn’t prescriptive to all of us. And there’s nothing to regret about having separate beds.

Per sleep physician, Dr. Brandon Peters, “It may feel discouraging to contemplate a sleep divorce. Instead, consider it a healthy change to enhance each partner’s sleep. Prioritize an evening routine that includes time to connect, and then retire to separate quarters without feeling guilty. If it does not work, it is always possible to return to a prior arrangement.”

The lifestyle challenges

Part of the problem is that many partners don’t adjust their sleep routine to accommodate their partners. I try to get in bed when Laura goes to sleep, but I’m sometimes late. We use a white noise machine in the room that plays this dull static noise that evens out any creaking sounds that might wake her up. It helps me get into the room quieter at night too and I take great efforts not to wake her up.

Conversely, she often wakes up before me. I sleep with earplugs in at night, which helps me sleep quicker and easier, and I rarely hear her alarm when she wakes up.

Another thing I’d strongly recommend — get separate blankets and a large mattress. That way you aren’t competing for blanket and mattress space as much. I’m 6’4 and Laura is 5’9, so we struggle to share smaller beds. This style of sleeping is also called the Scandinavian Method, which works great for us.

I question the wording of “sleep divorce” and if it is the healthiest term to use in this situation. But don’t feel guilty if it comes to that. At a minimum, having a spare bedroom in case one of you is having a bad night of sleep can work wonders.

Parting thoughts

I echo Bryan Johnson’s aforementioned point that sleep is the most important part of our lifestyle. Anytime I’ve been chronically sleep deprived, it has made the world feel gray and awful. Sleep deprivation saps the joy out of everything. Invest in getting a good night’s sleep, both financially, and behaviorally. Buy a good mattress. Get into a good routine that allows for you to fall asleep. I typically get in bed nine hours before I wake up, and give myself a few minutes to read before turning the lights off.

If you do decide to sleep separately, and see it out of necessity, I’d recommend framing it in a positive light. There’s cliche jokes about the husband sleeping on the couch or the guest room when he’s in trouble or the relationship is on the rocks. But for many people doing exactly this proves to be quite helpful to their partnership. Treat it like you are sleeping in allied sleep kingdoms.

Live long and rest well.

Sean Kernan·Yahoo Creator

I’m a former financial analyst turned writer out of Tampa, Florida. I write story-driven content to help us live better and maximize our potential.

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