Lots of us have been there; frustratingly wide awake in the early hours while our partner happily snores away contentedly on the pillow next to us. Would you consider doing something about it, though? It may surprise you to learn that more than a third of Brits prefer to sleep in a separate bed to their partner* – and 10 percent of couples spend 365 nights a year apart. It’s a controversial issue because many people will assume that you’re experiencing relationship problems if you choose to do this. However, with the news that 25 percent of Brits only get five hours’ snoozing time a night or less**, it might actually be beneficial to our health to sleep alone. So with that in mind, we called in the experts to ask if going it alone is what we should be doing to finally get some much-needed shut-eye.
Why sleep separately?
It may sound strange, but spending the night apart could be the answer to better rest, as research conducted by Dr Nerina Ramlakhan with Silentnight (silentnight.co.uk) has revealed some very telling findings. “A whopping 40 percent of British adults say that their partner snoring or heavy breathing is the reason they can’t get a good night’s sleep. This, among other factors such as stress and worry, can cause countless nights of tossing and turning. Instead, if you’re worried about getting enough sleep, don’t be ashamed to lovingly negotiate sleeping separately every once in a while.
The rest of the time, work on sleeping together but have a back up plan. Aim to communicate openly and honestly, but not at two in the morning!” If, on the other hand, it’s not snoring you have a problem with but the fact that you’re sharing a bed with a duvet hog, why not consider having separate, single covers? This also means that if one of you prefers a higher tog duvet, the other one won’t be complaining about feeling too hot!
Are you sleep incompatible?
Dr Nerina believes that sleep incompatibility with your partner is the biggest reason for a poor night’s sleep. According to her, there are two kinds of sleeper – a sensitive type who wakes at the slightest noise, can’t sleep if they’re stressed and needs their side of the bed and own pillow, and a martini sleeper, who can nod off any time, any place, anywhere. If you and your partner happen to be opposing types, then there may be times when ‘separate caves’ are needed. However, there is a way to negotiate things so that your romantic life is not impacted, and no one is left feeling guilty. “Get the biggest bed you can fit in your room, a mattress that minimises your partner’s movements, and use white noise, such as a fan, to mask sounds such as snoring,” she says. “The key is to communicate without blame and shame. Keep a sense of humour!”
Suddenly worried that you’re incompatible with your partner? Don’t worry – Dr Nerina has some advice for improving your connection to reverse the issue. “You can help each other by taking a practise nap together for 30 minutes or so. Perhaps try it over the weekend to work out your individual preferences and come up with a solution.”
Will we lose our intimacy?
Sleeping in the same bed is a big part of a relationship, so it’s important to consider how spending nights apart may affect your connection. “Intimacy shouldn’t be underestimated if you’re concerned about your sleep,” says Dr Nerina. “Being close to a partner induces oxytocin, the so-called ‘love hormone’, that allows you to feel secure and relaxed. This is actually something that is vital for good, restorative sleep. Oxytocin can be induced by simply giving your partner a hug or telling them you love them.” If you’re sleeping apart, it’s therefore important to create time and space for each other to be sexual and intimate, as relationship expert Kate Mansfield (katemansfield.com) explains. “I think that sleeping apart sometimes and having space from each other is an essential aspect of being in a healthy relationship,” she says. “However, don’t do it every night. Go away together for romantic weekends to make sure you are not growing apart and creating too much distance.”
Are there any negatives?
Well, yes, there can be. When you think about sleeping in separate beds, does an imminent divorce immediately come to mind? “It’s true that many couples who live together, but sleep in different rooms or beds every night are on the brink of separation – it certainly isn’t great for intimacy and feeling close,” says Kate. “However, if there is a medical reason, such as snoring or insomnia, then sleeping apart can help. We all function better mentally and with each other if we’re well rested. Tiredness can lead to irritability and can often cause petty arguments in a relationship. If your partner snores or one of you has insomnia, then sleeping apart sporadically can help.”
How can I talk to my partner?
If you’ve decided that a sleep divorce is the only way to catch up on your shut-eye, there’s just one final hurdle – how to tell your partner that you want separate beds. So, how do you broach this delicate subject with your beloved? “This depends on the reason,” says Kate. “If it’s medical, then explain this and make sure that they know it’s not to do with how you feel about them romantically. However, if you’re not feeling close and connected and don’t want to cuddle up, you might need to discuss more than just sleeping arrangements with your partner.” Keep in mind though, that a good night’s sleep can make your relationship better, so work together to find a solution that’s best for both of you.
Sleeping apart not possible? If you haven’t got the space for separate beds, try these products tonight instead