You’re not alone. Well, maybe you are at night in bed, but you’re among the 23 percent of married couples who sleep solo. Would you believe that requests for two master bedrooms in new homes is on the rise? That’s right: the National Association of Home Builders predicts that by 2015, 60 percent of all custom upscale homes will be built with two “owner suites.” Wow.
More and more people these days are saying good night to their significant other and closing the bedroom door behind them. I heard about this sleep trend a while ago, and then read a more sobering article last week online that highlights the extent—and potential downfalls—of this movement.
People are choosing it for a variety of reasons, the common denominator being that couples don’t get a good night’s sleep while sharing a bed. Snoring, general tossing and turning, and opposite schedules are chiefly to blame (sorry, but I’m leaving out the “I don’t like my spouse anymore” motive; let’s keep the sleeping separately for serious relationship/emotional issues aside please).
On the one hand, maintaining separate bedrooms has its benefits if you’ve tried everything to sync your sleep habits and both get a good night’s sleep. But psychologists and marriage counselors point to some of the pitfalls of this arrangement. Not surprisingly, you lose that certain intimacy that comes naturally with sleeping side by side. You also lose that sense that you’re part of something—someone—else. If you can be happy and content in another room, then is there something else wrong? One man featured in the article admits he feels “out of the loop” when he sleeps in another room.
But I am particularly amused by the comments made by Stephanie Coontz, author of “Marriage: A History” and director of research and public education at the Council on Contemporary Families, a nonprofit research organization. She says sleeping in separate beds in order to get a good night’s rest is “reasonable and revolutionary”; in fact she notes how we are accustomed to believing that we need to sleep beside our beloved, yet in the last 30 years we’ve learned that “there’s more than one way to do marriage” and that there are “lots of ways to have a happy marriage and even a good sex life.”
Okay, so maybe that’s true. But it’s also true that we’ve revolutionized sleep medicine in the past 30 years. Heck, in just the past 10 years it’s come a long way. If two people are sleeping solo because one or both have trouble sleeping, they should address those issues.
What if you’ve got a hubby with sleep apnea, which can be life-threatening, and then cast him aside to another room and never get him treated? Having a bed partner can actually reinforce good sleep habits, like getting to bed at a reasonable hour (“Honey, please come to bed!”) or engaging in spontaneous sex in the morning (as opposed to knocking on another door in the house and get invited in). How many couples who sleep solo trade a less-than-perfect sex life for better sleep? I think people can have it both ways…if they pay attention.
Let’s also not forget about all the “revolutionary” products we have today that can help two couples share the same bed comfortably—despite their individual habits. Might I suggest:
- A bed with two different sides to it (you can tailor it to your individual cushion needs and so can your spouse).
- A bigger bed with plenty of extra space (how many of you are still trying to accommodate two big bodies on a queen?).
- Attention to details: try a bed with memory foam so your spouse’s nighttime restlessness doesn’t bother you; banish the electronics (TV, computer, and cell phone) from the room.
- Attention to serious problems: if your spouse snores, it may be time to discuss this with your doctor and look into underlying causes that can be addressed appropriately to ease or stop the snoring. Remember, sleep apnea could be serious.
Lastly, it always helps to have an open conversation with your bed partner about how each of you can accommodate your unique sleep needs. If you keep different schedules, then learn how to respect the other’s sleep when one of you gets up or goes to bed at a different time.
It’s not that difficult. I don’t know many couples who share the exact same schedule. The key is to keep the bedroom a quiet sanctuary at all times and do your loud business (i.e., getting dressed, using the computer, text-messaging, responding the calls and e-mails, watching TV, etc.) elsewhere. Now that’s a revolutionary concept!