I love sleeping. Every night I am blessed with the luxury of falling asleep quickly, staying sound asleep for roughly eight hours, and waking up refreshed and ready to take on the day. Lucky me, right? Maybe. Or maybe it has nothing to do with luck at all.
These days— the ones where I am sleeping so darn well — I am alone in my big, comfy bed. I can take the covers on or rip them off, sleep diagonally or sprawled out like a starfish, put the TV on or leave it off. The bed is mine, all mine and I must say, I do love it.
Back when I was married, however, sleep was always an issue: he snored, stole the blankets, he even rocked himself to sleep! No wonder I was tired all of the time.
Couples everywhere struggle with the age-old tradition of sharing a bed. Though these days more and more coupes are deciding to get a “sleep divorce,” the practice of sleeping in separate bedrooms while remaining married.
Megan Casper, 36, a dietician and nutritionist, remembers her own struggles when sleeping next to her husband. “He snores and has had numerous surgeries to try to fix it,” she explained. “We tried special pillows, white noise machines, nose pieces and other gadgets.” While trying desperately to find a solution that would offer a peaceful night of sleep, Casper’s resentment grew even though she knew her husband wasn’t waking her up on purpose. “It started to cause anxiety and insomnia as I would wait for the snoring to start before I fell asleep.”
When Casper was pregnant, she started to slip away into another room in the middle of the night in order to sleep. After the baby was born, this became a more regular habit. They eventually made the decision to sleep in separate bedrooms and have been now for over four years. “I think we are both better-rested and happier.”
Sleep is far too important to sacrifice in the name of tradition. While many couples may never consider a sleep divorce, you should not feel guilty or allow judgement from others to prevent you from giving it a try. “Sleep is a basic human need,” says licensed psychotherapist, Christine Scott-Hudson, MA, MFT, ATR. “If you love your partner, but also love how you feel rested after getting some shut-eye, a sleep divorce may be the right option for you.”
Some of the benefits of a sleep divorce are better health, increased alertness, and improved mood, says Scott-Hudson. “Getting a good night’s sleep often improves daily interactions for couples who were not getting restful sleep before the sleep divorce.”
If you are fed up with your current sleep (or lack thereof) situation, it may be time to consider making some changes. Here are some suggestions for taking that next step (perhaps into your very own bed):
Talk it Out
Scott-Hudson emphasizes the importance of open and honest communication about sleep issues. “Do you feel angry, bitter, or resentful?” she asks. “Instead of becoming increasingly resentful, talk about it. Describe how the lack of sleep is impacting your daily life.” Help your partner see the full picture.
In the initial conversation, communicate expectations for a new and improved routine and don’t place blame. You also shouldn’t feel guilty for desiring a good night’s sleep.
Evaluate and Re-evaluate
While many couples make schedules, such as sleeping separately during the work week and together on the weekends, Scott-Hudson says it isn’t necessary to start with too many rules and regulations. “It may be most helpful for couples to commit to checking in regularly and authentically about how it is going, how they are feeling, and adjust accordingly.”
“The drawbacks to a sleep divorce are the potential to drift apart if both partners are not mindful of intimacy needs, both physical and emotional,” says Scott-Hudson. Intimacy doesn’t have to suffer just because you are sleeping in separate bedrooms, though. Commit to open communication about how you will nourish intimacy as a couple, as well as make a plan to do so.
Casper and her husband make it a priority to spend time together in the same bed before actually retiring to sleep in separate rooms. “When we’re both sleepy we say goodnight, so we’re together for all the awake parts anyway,” she says. “I honestly feel that the benefits of being happier and better rested helps intimacy, too!”
Don’t Worry About What Others Think
Don’t let fear of judgement stop you from giving separate beds a try. If you are suffering from lack of sleep, feeling groggy, and irritable during the day, or harboring resentment toward your partner for sleepless nights, know that you are not alone. Casper feared judgment from others, she even judged herself in the beginning. “It can feel strange that we need so much space, and initially I had to remind myself of many other happy marriages within my family that had the same arrangement.”
Ultimately, she and her husband learned that sleeping apart improved their health and relationship. Slowly the fear of judgement diminished. Casper advises others who are considering a sleep divorce, to not let others judgement, or your own, keep you from getting a good night’s sleep! “Life is too short to always be tired.”