I have a confession to make. I contemplated submitting this anonymously, but that would defeat the purpose of destigmatizing the topic. So, here it is…
On most nights, my husband and I sleep in separate spaces in our home. Are my husband and I having serious problems in our marriage? Are we on a slippery slope towards divorce? I can assure you that the answer to these questions is an emphatic “NO!”
It’s just that we have reached a point in our marriage where sleep is a priority to both of us for our physical/mental health and wellbeing. We have found that we are better people to each other and better parents to our kids when we’ve had a restful night of sleep. Good sleep helps us better handle the occasional merry-go-round of marriage issues.
Before I continue I will state that I asked my husband for his consent before writing about this aspect of our personal lives. He was all for it! Also, we have had conversations with our kids about our sleep arrangement. They understand that it’s not because there is a problem in our marriage, but rather it’s a way for us to keep our marriage and family healthy.
Separate sleeping arrangements aren’t unusual
In 2017, the National Sleep Foundation published the results of a survey that found that almost 25% of married couples sleep in separate beds. So, if you and your spouse have thought about separate sleeping arrangements, but felt overwhelmed by the stigma associated with it, rest [ha!] assured, you’re not alone. There’s even a term for it: “sleep divorce.” I’m not a fan of this wording, but as a concept, I get it.
Separate sleeping arrangements occur for many reasons
According to one study, sleep quality is worse with a partner when measured objectively. In the study, researchers found that up to 50% of sleep disturbances are related to sleeping with someone who snores. Other reasons include different sleep-wake cycles, different mattress firmness preferences, lack of bed space while pregnant, and more.
For us, our non-traditional sleeping arrangement initially started because of my husband’s snoring. He tried everything; even an appointment with a doctor at a sleep center. Nothing worked. Add to that his restless leg syndrome and I was not sleeping well. Frustrated, I would wake him up to have him turn to his side (a sleep position that seemed to tone down the volume of his snoring), so then he was frustrated with being awakened.
I would keep him awake with my reading/working late/watching Netflix late at night (I’m a night owl). I also experience recurring insomnia; meaning I can’t stay asleep for long periods of time and end up accidentally waking him up with my activity. Sleeping in separate spaces helps both of us avoid frustrations that lead to grumpiness the next morning.
Separate sleeping arrangements don’t kill intimacy
Since most people connect intimacy with sleeping together, it’s logical that most people also think that sleeping in separate spaces could kill intimacy. Several of the articles that I read showed that intimacy doesn’t have to suffer as long as each party communicates their needs/expectations.
Without embarrassing my husband, or divulging details that would embarrass our kids who will read this when they are older, I’ll simply put it this way: separate sleeping has not caused any negative impact on our “adult time” activity. If anything, it’s improved it and has helped us be more intentional rather than becoming routine just because we happen to be together in the same space. I’ll leave it at that, for the sake of our family, friends, and kids’ teachers who have to look us in the eye after reading this.
Meanwhile, we continue to also engage in other ways to stay connected and invest in our relationship outside of our bedroom.
To summarize: “you do you, Boo.” Sleeping in separate spaces – whether it’s a separate bed, a separate room or separate sleep times – may or may not be for you. It definitely isn’t a way to deal with an unhealthy marriage. The key is to have an open and honest line of communication with one another about your needs and work from there. I am glad that my husband and I are at a point in our lives that we are confident enough in our 17-year marriage to do whatever it takes to make it a healthy one for ourselves and for our children.
Have you and your spouse/partner considered or do you have a non-traditional sleeping arrangement? What are the pros and cons?