In some sort of alternate universe, you and your partner would always fall asleep in each other’s arms, spend every night spooning, and, of course, you’d both get a full eight hours of sleep. But the odds of that actually happening, on a scale of Hallmark movie to real life? Just take a wild guess.
Between snoring, tossing and turning, and having entirely different sleep schedules, there’s a whole slew of ways your partner is liable to keep you up all night—and no, not in that way. It’s a major reason why one in four married couples sleep in separate bedrooms, at least according to a 2005 survey.
If the issue plagues your life and relationship, sleeping in separate beds may seem like the only way to consistently get a good night’s sleep. But does not catching your nightly zzz’s directly next to your partner damage the emotional bond you share? Does the choice unknowingly hurt your relationship?
The good news: It certainly doesn’t have to. In fact, separate bedrooms is a solution relationship therapist and Sex Without Stress author Jessa Zimmerman fully endorses—so long as sleep problems are the true culprit, not a deeper relationship issue you’re avoiding. “I don’t know of any scientific studies with a concrete answer on how not being bedmates with your partner impacts the relationship, Zimmerman says. “I don’t think it’s so much the sleeping next to someone that matters as much as the cuddling, touching, and human contact that we’re wired for.” And, though sleeping side by side naturally leads to more of that sort of thing, it hardly requires a shared bed—so long as the couple is mindful about making it happen.
Determine the specific needs of your relationship
Regardless of sleeping arrangements, the first step is to figure out how much cuddling and touch is important to you and to your partner. “This is part of the concept of love languages,” Zimmerman says. “Different things are important to different people. It’s not uncommon at all to have one person who wants to be touchy-feely and the other person doesn’t really like it.”
When this is the case, compromise is key for meeting your partner somewhere in the middle. “You have to figure out a way for both people’s needs to be met,” Zimmerman says. “If cuddling and touch matters to your partner, it needs to matter to you.”
Create space for more touch points throughout the day
Once you’re on the same page about about cuddle quantity, next comes figuring out how to make it actually happen. And if you’re sleeping apart, seeing this out can require some extra forethought and effort. But it doesn’t have to be a whole big to-do. “Maybe you intertwine on the couch when you’re watching TV to make sure you’re getting that physical bonding that might otherwise happen as bedmates,” Zimmerman says.
Basically, emotional component of touch isn’t bound to the bedroom or to a sleeping schedule. After a while, being touchy-feely with intention, at moments other than bedtime, can just become second nature. It won’t feel like you’re “trying”; it’ll just become how you interact with each other.
So no, sleeping in separate rooms doesn’t mean you’re signing up to grow apart from your partner or that your relationship will suffer. Like virtually everything else in a relationship, this comes down to communication and effort. With that in mind, you can, well, sleep soundly.
Because you’ll be sleeping better, you and your partner might actually fight less. And here are seven more tips for getting a better night’s sleep.
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