More Couples Are Asking for a 'Sleep Divorce' — and It Could Actually Be Really Good for Your Relationship

Here's how to make sleeping in separate bedrooms work.

HUMP DAY: The Perks of Sleeping In Different Beds
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DEAR DR. JENN,

My husband and I have totally different preferences and habits when it comes to sleep. I am a night owl and he is a morning lark. I wake up to pee a couple of times a night because I am a big water drinker — this drives him crazy. He snores which keeps me up — and drives me crazy. We are thinking about sleeping in different bedrooms... but is this a terrible idea for our relationship? We know of one other couple who does this and it seems to actually help their marriage. —Desperately Seeking a Sleep Solution

DEAR DESPERATE FOR SLEEP,

You might be surprised to learn that a 2017 survey from the National Sleep Foundation found that one in four couples sleep in separate beds. Once the habit of elderly couples, this is now more common amongst younger couples. Recently, TikTok influencer Taylor Paul publicly spoke about how she and her husband have separate bedrooms and why that works for them, taking separate bedroom couples out of the shadows and into social media discussions.

There are many reasons couples sleep apart — aka decide to have a 'sleep divorce' — which it sounds like you're experiencing firsthand. Some of the most common are snoring, restlessness, frequent trips to the bathroom, temperature disputes, and incompatible sleep schedules.

The Benefits of a Sleep Divorce

While virtually every sleep problem has a solution that does not involve separate beds or rooms (like say, a nose strip for snoring), not every couple prefers to sleep together because, well, research shows we generally sleep worse with a partner. For example (unsurprisingly) one study found that sleeping with someone who snores can have a negative impact on your own sleep quality.

And lack of sleep can adversely affect the quality of a romantic relationship. A sleep study that examined relationship quality in heterosexual couples found that when men got poor sleep they reported their relationship quality suffered the next day. And when women were not happy about their relationship neither she nor her husband slept well that night. This seems like a pretty vicious cycle!

dr. jenn mann

Not every couple is sleep compatible. Sleep compatibility is very different than relationship compatibility.

— dr. jenn mann

We know that couples who are more in sync with their sleep have higher levels of satisfaction, less conflict, and more sexual activity. But not every couple is sleep compatible. Keep in mind that sleep compatibility is very different than relationship compatibility.

What You Need to Know to Make Separate Bedrooms Work

Before you put up literal walls between you and your partner at bedtime, it is important to explore all of the options to help the two of you sleep together better. You may want to consult with your doctors and or a sleep specialist to review your options together. After doing that, if you still want separate nocturnal locations, here is what I recommend.

Broach the subject carefully.

Before laying out to your partner that you would like to have separate bedrooms, you may want to explore the concept philosophically to see how they feel about it. Keep in mind that for many people the idea of doing this may feel like a rejection and could be upsetting. It is important to convey that your feelings and love for your partner are very separate from your desire to get a good night's sleep — which you are struggling to do when you sleep together.

Obviously, both partners need to be on board for this to work. Pressuring a partner into doing this does not work for this setup. Both people need to feel good about experimenting with it, in order for it not to be detrimental to the relationship.

Make time for intimacy.

The first thing most couples worry about is that they will stop having sex or moments of affection together. Just because you don't sleep together, doesn't mean you don't sleep together. You just have to make more of a conscious effort to have sex. Discuss in advance if you will sleep in your separate bedrooms on sex nights. For some, sleeping in separate bedrooms after being sexually intimate may not feel good, so be willing to come up with a plan that works for you both.

I also suggest planning cuddle time every night. If you are a couple that thrives with physical affection, you will want to make sure that you don't lose that in your physical separation at night.

Be open to revisiting the plan.

Give yourselves time to adjust to the new arrangement. It may take some getting used to for one or both of you. But also, be willing to make tweaks to the schedule as needed. For example, just because you have separate bedrooms, doesn't mean that you have to sleep in them seven nights a week! You may want to try experimenting with separate bedrooms once a week and see how it feels.

I also suggest reevaluating once a month to make sure the new plan is still working for both of you. Sometimes people are afraid to speak up and ask for what they want if the plan is not working. Make sure you create an open safe place to communicate as a couple and discuss how the new arrangement feels on a regular basis.

At the end of the day, couples need to do what works best for them. Happy, connected, well-rested couples thrive. Each couple has to figure out the best way for them to achieve that goal.

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