There is an old adage stating that absence makes the heart grow fonder. If that is the case, then it may make sense for married couples to sleep in separate beds or even separate rooms. While this may sound like a quaint or laughable notion, a number of studies bear out the theory that a “sleep divorce,” in which a couple physically separates on a nocturnal basis, may be beneficial for some couples.
Consider the following statistics:
- One in four couples sleeps separately in the interest of improving sleep quality, according to a 2012 Better Sleep Council survey.
- Relationship conflicts in the morning can arise from out of sleep disturbances from one’s partner during the night, according to a 2013 University of California, Berkeley study.
- Relationship problems and sleep issues tend to occur concurrently, according to a 2016 study at a German university.
- Out of 2,000 Americans responding to a 2018 marketing research poll, 46% expressed a wish to sleep separately from their spouses or partners.
There may be a biologically based rationale for choosing to sleep separately. Physical, emotional and mental health all improve with a restorative night’s sleep. Experts state that you are better equipped to manage life, including your relationship, when you feel rested.
On the other hand, when you experience disturbances due to your bed partner’s restlessness, snoring, poor hygiene or other issues, it can increase your body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol. The combination of lack of healthful sleep and increased cortisol levels can not only augment the likelihood of marital discord, it can also contribute to sexual dysfunction and other health problems.
Sleeping separately is not an automatic solution to all marital problems. Nevertheless, an open, honest discussion about each partner’s individual sleep needs could yield a workable compromise even if a complete “sleep divorce” is not right for you and your spouse. Keep in mind, however, that the best time to have this discussion is during a calm and connected period, preferably during daylight hours.