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MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Thu 17-Apr-14 15:28:14

Guest post: Why sleeping separately has been the best thing for my marriage

Many of us would associate separate sleeping places with unhappy marriages - but it is also not uncommon to experience difficulty sharing a bed with a loved one. Indeed, new research seems to indicate that women in heterosexual relationships are more likely to suffer sleep-deprivation when they share a bed than their male partners.

In this guest post, blogger Jennifer Adams - who has been sleeping separately from her husband for eight years - argues that solo sleeping needn't indicate a loveless relationship, indeed it may actually be a sign of a very healthy one.

Jennifer Adams

Sleeping Apart Not Falling Apart

Posted on: Thu 17-Apr-14 15:28:14


Lead photo

Why are women losing more sleep than their male partners?

If you are a woman who lives with her male partner, I have a question for you – how well did you sleep last night? Did you slumber peacefully waking rested and restored? Or did you greet the dawn exhausted and frustrated after another night of broken sleep thanks to the person sharing your bed?

I’m going to lay my cards on the table straight away. My husband and I sleep in separate rooms and have done so for eight years.

If I was going to describe our ability to share a bed in contemporary parlance, I would have to say we are an ‘epic fail’. When my partner moved in, we had only been seeing each other for five months.

We trotted off down that well-worn path of most couples and hopped into the same bed on the first night of our new domestic arrangements; seven nights later we were bleary eyed, unable to function properly at work and re-thinking our decision to live together.

There was only one possible solution: separate beds. At first we agreed we would need separate beds during the week, but on weekends we would share. That decision lasted for two weeks. We simply could not sleep in the same bed and actually sleep.

The main cause of our problem was my partner Fraser’s snoring (there were other factors such as disparate bed times, room and bed temperature differences, fan on/fan off etc). As a light sleeper, the noise from Fraser’s snoring kept me awake and made me anxious. I felt bad. He felt bad. We despaired together.

Although the decision was swift, making it was not easy, and was accompanied by a myriad of questions and fears: What did this mean? Was there something wrong with us? Was the relationship doomed? What would other people say? But more importantly, was it ok to prioritise getting a good night’s sleep over sleeping next to each other?

After an unsure start, we began to talk. And nine years on we’re still talking about what sleeping in separate rooms means for us. Over time the conversations have changed.

In the beginning they were fervoured talks about how much we loved each other and how separate rooms ABSOLUTELY did not mean we didn’t desire each other or want to be together. After about six months, our comfort levels increased and we then talked about what we needed from each other to maintain intimacy in our relationship.

Women – far more than men – lose sleep because they sacrifice their bed and sleeping needs in order to continue sharing a bed with their husband or boyfriend; heterosexual couples were found to predominately sleep in temperature noise and light conditions that favoured the male in the relationship.

The reality is that there are no winners when it comes to sleep deprivation. If you are sleep deprived, you expose yourself to a long list of health risks including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, cognitive impairment, psychiatric problems, stroke, heart attack, to name but a few. You also sell yourself short with your employer, you rob your partner of sharing the best version of yourself, and if you have children, you deprive them of a fully functioning mother who is taking the best care she can of herself.

There is a strong body of research that tells us the extent to which sleep is disturbed by sharing a bed with another person. However, when we head into the realm of ‘who’s disturbing whom’ in the bedroom, it appears that women are being far more ‘disturbed’ than they are doing the ‘disturbing’. Clinical research reveals that men are far more likely to snore and pass wind at night than women.

In addition, women – far more than men – lose sleep because they sacrifice their bed and sleeping needs in order to continue sharing a bed with their husband or boyfriend; heterosexual couples
were found to predominately sleep in temperature, noise and light conditions that favoured the male in the relationship.

The same study looked in to why women are so prepared to sacrifice sleep for the sake of sharing their bed with their partner – and it turns out that for women, sleep isn’t just about getting sleep. It’s about the social act of sharing a bed and room with another person. The sacrifice is also fuelled by the cultural implications and expectations that come along with the idea that when you ‘partner up’ with someone you’re supposed to share a small space with them every night. No matter what the implications.

Somewhere in our socialisation, we buy into the construct that a ‘happy’ couple is one that shares a bed every night. Part of the reason we are so caught up in this image is that so many ‘unhappy’ couples take themselves off to separate rooms as a sign of their disharmony. TV and movies rely heavily on this discourse to support a narrative. If you caught Hope Springs in 2011 with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones, you’ll know exactly what I mean. I suggest it’s a poor bargain.

Unfortunately, the default position from which separate sleepers often have to justify their decision is that “there must be something wrong”. And yes, there is something wrong – we can’t lie next to each other in the same bed and get enough sleep to function. But there’s nothing wrong with the relationship. We still love each other, want to be together and some of us separate sleepers even manage to fit in some procreating. (It’s true – people who sleep in separate beds still have sex. I promise. We do.)

Nine years on, Fraser and I have found that people are mostly convinced our relationship is not doomed for failure. As a couple we still argue and get cranky with each other over a whole range of issues – but I figure at least we are well rested and thinking clearly when we are trying to resolve those issues.

One thing I know is that we will need to keep talking about this part of our relationship because we are committed to each other and know that the ‘separate room’ thing requires work. I also know that I will keep talking about our sleep arrangements to other people in the hope that separate sleepers everywhere can hold up their heads with pride, know they are not alone, and be congratulated for recognising the value and importance of a good night’s sleep and doing something about it.

By Jennifer Adams

Twitter: @mumsnetbloggers

ItsaMissTerri Fri 18-Apr-14 11:36:05

Thankyou for writing this makes me feel less weird that DH and I have had separate rooms for two years now due to his snoring and early waking. It's been the best decision ever as I now can get a full nights sleep and starfish all night long I would never go back to sharing a bed.

JohFlow Fri 18-Apr-14 12:08:49

I am currently suggesting separate beds from my partner - we could not be more opposite in terms of our sleep behaviours. He is a chronic snorer and has a noisy sleep machine to assist with sleep apnea from the hospital. And I have chronic insomnia. We have different temperature and light requirements. I keep him awake with my endless writhing and he keeps me awake with decibels! It would not be an exaggeration to say that some nights (particularly if I have not slept for weeks) are torture! Why do I do it to myself? So I plucked up the courage to suggest separate beds - not to put a distance between us; but to recognise our practical requirements. So hopefully; it will be sex and a nice cuddle in his bed then 'see you tomorrow - when I will be nicely rested' (wink).

LoveBeingCantThinkOfAName Fri 18-Apr-14 12:23:01

We sleep in desperate rooms, unfortunately for my dh we don't have a spare room so he's on the sofa. It's something that we need to talk about as I have struggled with it. Maybe I should just accept it and enjoy it?

KaFayOLay Fri 18-Apr-14 13:13:38

We've been in separate rooms for 10 years, married for 11.

I go to bed a couple of hours before him and get up earlier. He snores, I like the duvet tucked under my shoulders, he likes them down near his feet.
We couldn't be less compatible when it comes to sleep.

I dread going on holiday as invariably we end up in the same bed. I get home anything but rested sad

rootypig Fri 18-Apr-14 13:28:15

Love desperate rooms smile - I hope not flowers

LoveBeingCantThinkOfAName Fri 18-Apr-14 13:36:21


DownstairsMixUp Fri 18-Apr-14 13:40:36

As soon as the DS have grown up and gone, I will be doing this. DP is the loudest snorer (in the world I am convinced) and he talks a lot to. I sound mean but if he ever stomps into the front room if we row I absolutely LOVE having the bed to myself!

LyndaCartersBigPants Fri 18-Apr-14 13:59:06

This is really reassuring! I don't live with my DP, but we do share a bed about 4 nights a week. On those nights when he's not here I do miss him, but gosh I love my sleep and I really appreciate having the whole bed to myself and a nice lie-in in the morning!

He gets up early for the gym and I've told him ow that he only gets one alarm, no snoozing for 10 minutes as every extra 10 minutes he steals, he is stealing from me! He thinks I'm a bit mean and doesn't understand why some nights when i don't have my DCs I will choose to stay home alone instead of going to his house.

I love my bf but I really love sleep! I think I have a good mix of snuggling and sleeping, but if we ever move in together I may make a point of having my own room smile

ItsaMissTerri Fri 18-Apr-14 14:00:55

Kafayolay I completely get the holiday thing! I always try booking twin beds at least ��

Beastofburden Fri 18-Apr-14 14:42:38

Our compromise has been a huge bed. We just replaced the mattresses with two very expensive single mattresses on two single divan bases, but the bases linked to make a large double bed. That works for us, as I don't get woken up when DH moves about at night. luckily he can sleep through my snoring which is apparently fierce blush

Coffeeinthepark Fri 18-Apr-14 15:44:59

We've always done something common in parts of Europe and used 2 single duvets on our king size bed - absolute autonomy on duvet position is great

Beastofburden Fri 18-Apr-14 15:49:22

When we bought our two singles the guy in the shop told us that his German, Norwegian etc customers thought Brits were nuts to share a duvet. One each, over there, apparently.

ssmile Fri 18-Apr-14 20:04:09

Nice to feel we are not alone with the two duvets on a king sized bed smile it works for us.

rabbitrisen Fri 18-Apr-14 22:51:00

My DH and I require touching. Sleeping apart for us personally would be catastrophic.

Dwerf Fri 18-Apr-14 23:14:28

I love sleeping alone, it's one of the pleasures of singledom, but even when I was married, I would have preferred the bed to myself.

Nannyplumismymum Fri 18-Apr-14 23:20:46

It's great this has been raisedsmile

Sleeping with a loved one can be very comforting for the soul - it is for me - and I need that re-connection at night with DH when the day has been so busy and tiring.

But I do love stereotypes being challenged -it just encourages others to see that there ARE options and doing things differently doesn't mean weird - it just means doing what's right for you and your family.

LackaDAISYcal Fri 18-Apr-14 23:48:05

My parents moved into separate rooms after 30 years of marriage (and sleep deprivation) and said it was the best thing that they ever did.

I toss and turn all night; my DH snores for England and neither of us have a good night's sleep. Recently I had an op and DH slept on the sofa and we have reluctantly agreed we sleep better apart. Unfortunately, with 3 DC ion a 3 bed semi, we just don't have the space...

Thumbwitch Sat 19-Apr-14 01:13:05

So glad you've written this!

I have slept separately from DH since I was 6m pg with DS1. This was mainly due to the intense pain I used to get in my hip joint that would keep me awake most of the night - I ended up on an old saggy studio couch, with 2 folded duvets under me, to stay comfortable. Then when Ds1 was born, I co-slept with him - DH couldn't deal with it, nor the disturbances to his sleep, so he went off to the spare room. I managed to get DS1 into his own room at 6m, but since I was regularly disturbed by him in the night, DH still preferred to get his full night's sleep in his own room, so we stayed separate; and when we emigrated abroad, the way the rooms were set up meant that I started sharing with Ds1 again, while DH (who apparently "needed his sleep" far more than I do hmm) stayed separate.

We did buy a King size bed on the understanding that we would be sharing it again at some point - but since it has a "pillow-top" mattress that is far too soft and hot for me, it's not going to happen any time soon.

We have very disparate sleeping habits - he goes to bed at least 3h before I do, and gets up at least 2h before me. He doesn't snore that much but is like a dog with the duvet, yanks it about, sleeps with it either wrapped round him or between his legs hmm and doesn't like a sheet or blanket, both of which I require for comfort.
I like to read to sleep - the light disturbs him. He likes to watch videos until he's ready to sleep - that disturbs me.
I actually can't see us happily sharing a room again because we ARE so different - but if we do, we'll not only need separate bedding, but separate mattresses to suit our different requirements! Two single mattresses in a king frame should work; I can tuck my sheet and blanket in and have a single duvet, he can have his duvet on its own, I'll get my firm orthopaedic mattress and he can have his fluffy soft too-hot one.
In reality though, separate rooms is far better for us. smile

KaFayOLay Sat 19-Apr-14 09:29:52

As an aside, my parent's have slept apart for probably 20+ years, so I have never seen it as anything odd.

The only time I think it's a little "ooh" is when I hear my dd saying "that's mum's bedroom" when she has friends over. She mentions it as that room is out of bounds to them.

allhailqueenmab Sat 19-Apr-14 12:44:16

KaFayOLay - "dread holidays" - sad, but I feel the same way. It is so awful trying to have the nicest week of your year when you could just lie down and cry with that fried, frayed, sleepless feeling. I have counted minutes till holidays are over. Literally.

I also identify with the poster who is flooded with relief when her dp stomps off and she is left in blissful isolation in bed!

I think P and I may be on the verge of splitting. One of the reasons for this, for me, underlying, is his accumulative lack of consideration for my need for sleep over the years. Reading a list like the one above of what lack of sleep does to you just makes me want to cry. I have posted on here before that if you lived with someone who, every time you were about to eat, swept your plate to the floor and trod in your dinner while he sat down and tucked into his own, no one would expect you to do anything but LTB. Especially if he was doing this when you were particularly hungry in the throes of pregnancy or breastfeeding. A man who carelessly, selfishly, forced his woman to go hungry would be justly reviled. why does no one care about our sleep?

We do actually have separate rooms and I love it. One place where I can't be bossed around and told everything I need and want is stupid and wrong

girliefriend Sat 19-Apr-14 18:26:10

This is interesting as I really struggle to share a bed with my bf, he is a cuddler whereas I like my own space to sleep. Plus he wakes early and I like to lie in, I don't know that I could cope with us living together unless we had seperate beds. I just don't sleep when he is in my bed.

KTBennett Sat 19-Apr-14 22:08:13

all i can say me and my hubby rarely share a bed together as i suffer with hot flushes thanks to my thyroid and he snores all the time we have three kids been together 14 years and been married for 10 this year we have a healthy love life so i am glad i am not alone .... other people think its odd when they tell people daddy sleeps downstairs but it works for us i believe we have a better relationship for it .... and when we do sleep in the same bed we both suffer for it and think why need we do that

gamerchick Sat 19-Apr-14 22:18:04

Me and the husband have separate bedrooms.. we're lucky that the house is big enough. His subconscious brain does not work well with others in the bed. He rattles the walls, he climbs walls face down on the mattress and he'll put his hands under me and gently try to slide me off the bed. Many a time i've woken up clinging to the edge stop falling off.

It doesn't work and we get along much better sleeping apart and since we still adore each other nearly 5 years on, I'm not bothered what other people think.

The amusing bit was, he was bothered until this one night when I kept him awake. He's been much on board since then grin

darksideofthemooncup Sun 20-Apr-14 01:23:06

Me and my Dh have been together for 14 years, married for 6 and I really believe that if we hadn't had had the option of separate rooms to sleep in we wouldn't still be together.
I am a light sleeper and he is a weapons grade snorer/duvet hogger. Sometimes I worry that we seem 'odd' to outsiders but in all honesty I would rather be happy and rested than care about what anyone else thinks

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