They say the bedroom is where the magic happens. But if you’re asleep way before The Tonight Show and your partner hits the pillow as The Today Show begins, the bedroom can feel more like a battleground.
Genetics play a huge role in whether you’re a night owl or early bird, so it’s not easy to change that behavior. “It’s rare for both people to have the same sleep habits,” says Inessa Freylekhman, a marriage and family therapist and feng shui expert at Carillon Miami Wellness Resort. “The key to coping with a partner who has a very different sleep pattern is communication.” But sleep doesn’t need to be a relationship deal-breaker—with a few adjustments, you can both get your eight hours.
Keep reading for 6 expert tips for rehabbing your sleep hygiene as a couple.
Rethink when you get close
Your wildly different bedtimes shouldn’t affect your sex life or prevent intimate moments like pillow talk. “If you’re a couple that can stick to a regular schedule, make sure to devote time each night to each other—whether it’s snuggling on the couch, enjoying a cup of tea, or taking a bath together,” says Keith Cushner, founder of the sleep site Tuck.com. “Use this time to enjoy one another, decompress, and catch up on your day before bedtime.”
You can also add little things to your routine like tucking in the earlier sleeper so you still get the comforting feel of going to bed together. (Aww!)
Set a one-hour rule
Make a promise that whoever stays up later will avoid coming into the bedroom or turning on the lights for at least an hour while the other is trying to fall asleep. “This is the time they’ll be in their REM or deep sleep,” Freylekhman explains, and disrupting them at this time could mess with the body’s ability to refresh and reset. REM sleep is also crucial for processing memory and other cognitive function, so it’s best to let your partner achieve a full sleep cycle before slipping in beside him or her.
But if that’s not possible, be mindful
If your partner likes to read in bed while you’re falling asleep, have them use a small book light or invest in an illuminated e-reader. But if it still bothers you? “Keep a sleep mask and earplugs on your bedside table for emergencies,” says Cecilia Lacayo, MD, a physician at the Biostation in Delray Beach, Florida. “Or try noise-canceling headphones with your favorite soothe-you-to-sleep music.”
Divide and conquer
Your ideal bedtime temperature is akin to 1 p.m. in the Sahara desert, while your partner likes to recreate Antarctica. Neither of you has to freeze or sweat unnecessarily. Separate blankets that meet your individual temperature needs do the trick. (Note, this also works well if you sleep with a blanket hog!)
Create a screen-free sanctuary
No one has to give up late-night Netflix, but there shouldn’t be a TV in your bedroom. “Your bedroom should be a space for rest and quiet relaxation,” says Dr. Lacayo. “If watching TV is what it takes to fall asleep, get used to enjoying it in another room so no one’s sleep is interrupted.”
“Sleep hygiene problems are very common among couples; if you’re going through it, understand you’re not the only ones!” says New York City-based family therapist Dr. Kathryn Smerling. “You have to be considerate of the other person’s wants, needs, habits, and routines. Just like everything else you do with your partner, there must be an established compromise.” Give a little, get a little—and then enjoy all the zzz’s you need.
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