Sleeping in separate rooms is often considered to be a sure sign that a marriage is on the rocks, but a study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation suggests it might just mean that the couple is getting a better sleep…and maybe even saving their marriage!
In 2005, the foundation found that almost a quarter of Americans sleep in separate bedrooms, and even more would like to but are worried about suggesting it to their partner.
The study surveyed 3000 Americans, 30.9% of whom said they would like to sleep separately from their partner. Many people find it difficult to sleep with another person in their bed, and a number of conditions can make sharing a room difficult. Differences in sleep preferences such as mattress firmness, watching TV at night, room temperature, and sleeping positions, as well as sleep habits and conditions like snoring, sleep talking, and tossing and turning, can make co-sleeping a nightmare.
This problem shouldn’t be taken lightly either: The study found that 10% of people had actually ended a relationship over sleep issues!
Sleeping in separate rooms helps to ensure that both people get a good sleep, and it can actually be a really smart move if sleep is an issue in the relationship.
“What happened in the last decade,” said Dr. Meir Kryger, a sleep specialist at Gaylord Hospital in Connecticut, “is that people are suddenly making their own sleep a priority. If their rest is being impaired by their partner, the attitude now is that I don’t have to put up with this.”
Depending on the couple, the benefits of separate bedrooms can actually extend far beyond simply getting a good night’s sleep. Being well rested leads to better health, better mood, and higher energy levels, all of which generally equal less bickering and a stronger relationship.
But sleeping alone also means that the couple may be inspired to get more quality time with their loved one during their waking hours, rather than relying simply on a quantity of time from sharing a room. A common concern about sharing separate beds is that it cuts down on romance, connection, and intimacy, but both couples who sleep separately and relationship experts say that the opposite can be true.
"By sleeping in separate beds, you have a better chance of prioritizing intimacy and physical touch," says Kristie Overstreet, Ph.D., a clinical sexologist, psychotherapist, and author. "It's not as easy as rolling over and reaching out for your partner. You put more thought into the action of seeking out your partner for intimacy. This helps you keep the physical nature of the relationship as a priority and prevents you from taking it for granted."
Sleeping separately isn’t just a matter of temporarily sleeping in the spare bedroom either. The Wall Street Journal reported that one in three home buyers in the $2million+ price range are interested in separate master bedrooms. For some of these buyers, their reason for having a second master suite is to accommodate guests or grown children, but many want to have individual bedrooms.
Still, the stigma of separate rooms meaning a poor marriage is strong, and 41.4% of the study’s participants said they wouldn’t tell their friends or family about separate sleeping arrangements. With an upswing in separate sleeping situations though, this may not last.
“There has been a stigma about sleeping apart,” clinical psychologist Wendy Troxel told the Wall Street Journal. “But perhaps we are moving toward this acceptance that there is no one size fits all.”
In fact, we may not actually be moving to a new trend but rather moving back to an old one. According to sleep specialist Dr. Neil Stanley, it wasn’t until the industrial revolution, when living spaces became smaller, that couples began sharing a bed.
He notes that in earlier cultures, including pre-Victorian era England and ancient Rome, it was very common for married couples to sleep separately.
Another option that some couples adopt is a kind of hybrid of the two. For the majority or the time, they sleep in the same bed, but they may move to separate bedrooms for a period of time when they really need the extra sleep, for example, before an important work project or during pregnancy. This is a great option for couples who aren’t interested in complete separation but who want to make sure they’re getting the sleep that they need.
Of course, sleeping decisions are very personal, and what may work for one couple will not necessarily work for another. For some, separate rooms may give them the space and sleep they need to build their relationship, while others strengthen their bond through cuddling and ending each day together. The important thing is to ignore what everyone else is doing and decide with your partner what is best for the two of you!
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