It’s not as dramatic as it sounds. A sleep divorce just means you’ve agreed to sleep in separate spaces for the sake of getting deeper, more healthy sleep. For some, that might mean moving into individual beds in the same room; for others, it could mean sleeping in different rooms for a more well-rested night.
There seems to be a stigma around sleeping separately, couples’ therapists often advise against it as sleeping together brings more opportunity for cuddling and intimacy. It also encourages more frequent sexual intimacy, which is linked to relationship quality.
But what if sharing a bedroom is hurting, rather than strengthening, your relationship?
If night-time disturbances and sleep differences are keeping you awake, it might be time to consider a sleep divorce. Here are five signs to look out for.
You’re on very different schedules
Our sleep cycle is hard-wired, so it’s incredibly difficult to change your inbuilt sleep rhythms to satisfy those of another person.
Couples who go to bed hours apart often wake each other up. If he’s a night owl and you like to be up early, it’s likely that you’ll both be disturbed during sleep.
In cases like this, it’s unlikely there will be any cuddling or closeness in bed as the overlapping hours spent in bed mean one person is either already, or still, asleep.
Read more: The pros and cons of being a night owl
Disturbed sleep is damaging your relationship
UC Berkeley psychologists Amie Gordon and Serena Chen have found that people are much more likely to lash out at their romantic partners over relationship conflicts after a bad night’s sleep.
Researchers collected data on the sleep habits of more than 100 couples who had been together, on average, for nearly two years. They gauged participants for depression, anxiety and other stressors in order to focus solely on the link between the couples’ sleep quality and relationship conflicts.
In one experiment, 78 young adults in romantic relationships provided daily reports over a two-week period about their sleep quality and relationship stresses. Overall, participants reported more discord with their partners on the days following a bad night’s sleep.
“Even among relatively good sleepers, a poor night of sleep was associated with more conflict with their romantic partner the next day,” Ms Chen said.
Read more: How to recover from a bad night’s sleep
You (or your partner) have an illness or injury
Interrupted sleep can hinder you from recovering quickly from an illness or injury, undisturbed sleep is vital in these times. Even turning over in bed can wake someone up, and it can be devastating when they’ve taken a long time to get to sleep in the first place. In these cases, health takes priority.
You can always revisit the issue when you (or your partner) are well again.
There’s a snorer in the relationship
Why does the one who snores always fall asleep first?
Frequent, loud snoring was reported by 24 per cent of men and 17 per cent of women in the 2016 Sleep Health Survey of Australian Adults.
It’s hard to forgive and forget when you’ve been kept awake the majority of the night; so, if you snore, get treatment. According to a Mayo Clinic study, the partner of a snorer could get over an hour more sleep if their partner was able to control their snoring.
Read more: How to (hopefully) stop snoring
You have a long day the next day
Consistently interrupted sleep can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness, which is a serious safety concern during activities like driving.
Poor sleep was a factor in more than 3000 deaths in 2016-17, more than 77 per cent of which were related to the effects of inadequate sleep on heart conditions; around 10 per cent were due to fatigue-related car accidents.
Before opting for a sleep divorce, have an honest discussion with your partner about how you both feel around the issue and what you hope to achieve. If it seems like a big change, maybe start by sleeping apart on weekdays but sleeping together on weekends so you still have that time together.
A sleep divorce can be managed successfully, just like any challenges that arise in healthy relationships. Through honesty and open communication, you and your partner can maintain intimacy and connection – and you might get more out of your waking hours together.
Do you sleep in the same bed as your partner? How do you deal with any sleep differences or difficulties?
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