The Case for Sleeping in Separate Beds
When snoring and other issues keep one partner awake, sleeping in separate beds or bedrooms may help. But how do you ask?
By Sean Illing
May 12, 2021
…I’ve battled light insomnia for most of my adult life, so sleep has always been a struggle. But I also like a little mindless TV before bed. She prefers music.
We could never compromise and it created … tension.
But the house with the extra room meant that we could occasionally sleep in separate beds. At first, we did it when someone was sick or especially tired.
Over time, we realized what should’ve been obvious: We slept way better apart.
…All of this makes me wonder why we didn’t do this sooner. Why do we assume sleeping in separate beds signals trouble in a relationship?
Wendy Troxel is a senior behavioral scientist at the Rand Corporation and the author of Sharing the Covers: Every Couple’s Guide to Better Sleep.
She studies the blurry relationship between sleep and relationship health.
I asked her if it’s true that most of us sleep better alone and, if so, why is there still a weird taboo around sleeping in separate beds? We also talk about how to broach the topic with your partner if you’re interested in giving this a try.
A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.
Do people sleep better when they sleep alone?
We have a limited amount of research on this topic but it does show pretty clearly that people sleep worse while sharing a bed as compared to sleeping alone. But if you ask those people, “Do you prefer to share a bed with your partner or sleep alone?” most will say they prefer to share a bed. So there’s this discrepancy between what our objective measures show and the subjective experience of sleep quality.
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