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SLEEPING IN SEPARATE BEDS AND HOW TO MAINTAIN INTIMACY

Have you been sleeping in separate beds from your spouse? Maybe you are considering it, and wondering if it is ok? Let us start by saying that you are not alone, neither are you the only one.

A good night’s sleep is crucial for everyone’s overall well-being (physical and mental), and as couples, our sleeping arrangements play a significant role in achieving restful slumber. Traditionally, sharing a bed has been viewed as a symbol of intimacy and togetherness, and been accepted as the normal sleeping configuration for couples, especially married.

However, in recent years, a trend has emerged: sleeping in separate beds. While it may initially sound counterintuitive to the idea of closeness, many couples are discovering the benefits of individual sleeping spaces. In this article, we will explore the concept of sleeping in separate beds and discuss the advantages it can bring to relationships. Let’s take a look at whether sleeping in separate rooms is bad for marriage, as many might think.

Table of Contents

The Evolution of Sleeping Arrangements

Historical Perspective

Throughout history, shared beds have been the norm for couples. It was a practical arrangement in earlier times when beds were smaller, and families often slept in the same room. However, as living spaces expanded, privacy and personal space became more valued.

Interestingly, historically and to this day, royal couples, as well as upper-class couples, sleep in separate rooms. While there are several assumed reasons for the arrangement, those most often mentioned are:

  • to be able to move freely in bed
  • to get much-needed rest without the bother of touch and noises (i.e., snoring, comforter stealing, alarms ringing…)
  • to retreat in much-needed alone time after very social days and functions
  • as a sign of luxury, if you are able to afford the multiple bedrooms

Did you know that Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip slept in separate rooms through their seemingly-happy 73 years of marriage? King Charles and Queen Camilla supposedly have 3 bedrooms – one each, and a common one. And even modern couple Prince William and Kate Middleton each have their separate bedroom, though it is said that they share a bed on most night.

Shifting Cultural Attitudes

Modern society places a high value on personal autonomy and self-care. As a result, couples are reevaluating traditional norms and recognizing the importance of individual needs and preferences. In recent years, sleep health has become a big topic, and many adults now recognize the need for healthy and restorative sleep.

Getting a night of deep and uninterrupted sleep has health impact spanning physical and mental health, which should not be overlooked. With more couples looking into their sleep habits, we are noticing a shift in norms across many western cultures.

Recognizing the Need for Change

Today, many couples are experiencing sleep disturbances due to differences in sleep schedules, temperature preferences, movement, and even snoring. Acknowledging these challenges has led to a more open-minded approach to sleeping arrangements and the consideration of separate beds as a viable solution.

In a 2018 survey of British people, 15% said they would rather sleep in a different bed than their romantic partner, if cost and space were not an issue. That is 1 in 7 Brits surveyed! Interestingly, of all women surveyed, 19% would rather sleep in separate beds, vs. 11% of men.

In a 2021 U.S. survey by YouGov (12,000 adult sample), 16% of Americans said they would rather sleep in a different bed than their romantic partner, if cost and the impact on their relationship were the same. With 18% responding “I don’t know” and “Non of these,” that leaves only 66% of Americans willingly wanting to share their bed with their partner. That is only 2 in 3 Americans!

By 2023, a smaller survey of 2,000 U.S. adults who live with a partner, showed that 49% of them would “be willing to try sleeping in a separate bed as a way to get better rest.” The survey mentions the shocking fact that “the average cohabiting person receives less than four good nights of sleep a week.”

The numbers are talking. Most adults, today, value the need for healthy and restorative sleep. We understand that being woken up through the night, often at a detrimental time during our sleep phases, can be negatively impactful to our personal, professional, and romantic life.

Did you know that most Germans and Austrians sleep with separate comforters? I am married to a German and he swears his nights would be lot more peaceful if we did not share a blanket. All of that is OK! There are many ways to make sleeping with someone work, and if it means separate beds, or even sleeping in separate rooms, it is OK. We are giving your ideas on how to make it work for you!

Understanding Sleep Needs and Preferences

The Importance of Quality Sleep

Quality sleep is crucial for physical health, mental well-being, and maintaining healthy relationships, whether romantic or friendships. When both partners have their sleep needs met, they are more likely to wake up refreshed and ready to face the day.

Per the U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH), sleep is as importance as a healthy diet and daily exercise, in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. They see much harm coming for poor sleep hygiene, ranging in diversity from heart disease, stroke, obesity, and dementia. Dr. Marishka Brown, a sleep expert at NIH, mentions that good sleep includes: how much sleep you get, uninterrupted nights of sleep, and a consistent sleep schedule.

Individual Sleep Patterns

It is important to understand and acknowledge that each person has unique sleep patterns and preferences. Some people are light sleepers, easily disturbed by movement or noise, while others may have different sleep schedules due to work or personal preferences.

Are you a night owl – full of energy and a creative brain late in the day, but have a hard time waking up in the morning? Or an early bird – most performing and achieving before the rest of your house wakes, but feel the need to sleep early in the night? Recognizing and respecting these differences is essential for optimal sleep. Each sleeper needs the freedom to sleep according to their internal clock and personal preference, in order to be best performing during their wake hours.

Addressing Sleep Disruptions

Snoring, tossing and turning, and differing bedtimes can disrupt sleep for both partners. By sleeping in separate beds or bedrooms, couples can minimize these disruptions, ensuring a better night’s sleep for each individual. It is important to understand that “time in bed” does not always equate to quality sleep. It is in fact healthier to sleep shorter hours of uninterrupted sleep, than to stay in bed 9 hours if you are in and out of sleep, disrupted by crying children, a moving partner, blocked airways, sounding alarms, or a variety of other disruptions.

Reinforcing Personal Space

The Need for Personal Space

Maintaining personal space is vital for emotional well-being, but it is important to note that each person has a very specific and personal notion of what creates a comfortable personal space.

While couples deeply value their connection, having designated personal space can provide a sense of autonomy and independence that contributes positively to the relationship. If couples need more space, investing in a larger mattress (i.e., upgrading a queen for a king mattress) can make a world of a difference, and allow partners more space to move around and spread their bodies.

If a wider bed is not an option, or if you already sleep on one, sleeping in separate beds can be an excellent option to grant each partner the personal space they need to achieve greater quality sleep.

Boundaries and Autonomy

Sleeping in separate beds allows each partner to establish boundaries and maintain a sense of independence within the relationship. It creates an environment where each individual can prioritize their well-being and recharge, ultimately fostering a healthier connection.

Lacking clear boundaries and autonomy in a relationship, can create frustration that can build up to toxic levels over the years. It is in fact healthier for a relationship, to ensure both parties feel empowered to make decisions for their own well being, and it can bring partners closer together instead.

Preserving Emotional Well-Being

Having separate beds can prevent issues like sleep deprivation, resentment, and frustration from building up. When partners consistently experience quality sleep, they are more likely to approach each day with a positive mindset, leading to improved emotional well-being and relationship satisfaction. If both partners agree to the benefits of sleeping separately, you should see an improvement in your couple’s relationship within a few days of better rest.

Enhancing Sleep Quality

Minimizing Sleep Disturbances

Sharing a bed can lead to sleep disturbances due to differences in temperature preferences, movement sensitivity, or noise levels. Many times, partners with different sleeping styles (back vs. stomach vs. side sleeping) or different body weights, may disagree on the ideal firmness for their mattress. If that is the case, one partner may suffer from pains and aches due to lack of spinal support, or too much pressure in the hips or shoulders.

Sleeping in separate beds allows each person to customize their sleep environment according to their unique needs, leading to fewer disruptions and more restful nights.

Temperature and Bedding Preferences

Temperature plays a significant role in sleep quality. Some individuals prefer a cooler sleeping environment, while others may find comfort in a warmer setting. With separate beds, couples can set their preferred temperatures and choose bedding materials that suit their individual comfort levels, ensuring a more comfortable and uninterrupted sleep experience. If temperature is the only reason you are considering sleeping in separate beds (and you’d rather find a solution to keep sleeping together), we suggest you first consider some bed cooling and heating systems, which cater different temperatures to each side of the bed.

Mattress Firmness Levels

If both partners have different sleeping styles, or different body sizes and weights, it can be difficult to find a mattress that provides a healthy sleep position to both partners. The worst scenario is a heavier stomach sleeper and a lighter-weight side sleepers, where the stomach-sleeper requires one of the firmest mattresses on the market and the side-sleeping partner requires a softer mattress to align their spine.

Another scenario can be a partner with specific medical needs. Chronic back pain, hip pain, shoulder pain, pregnancy, joint pain, etc. may require a different mattress firmness level for the affected partner. In those cases, sleeping in separate beds can help bring back comfort to each sleeper. If you fall in the mattress firmness category and would rather find a solution to keep sleeping in one bed with your partner, we suggest one of two options:

  • Create a Split King – did you know that 2 Twin XL mattresses put next to each other, make up a perfect King-size bed? This configuration is called Split King. As long as each partner chooses a mattress of the same thickness (height), each can choose a firmness level that works best for them.
  • Upgrade your current mattress for an internal split mattress (check our favorite one here). When you buy those mattresses in King size, the manufacturers lets you choose a different firmness level for each side of the mattress. So you are getting 2 mattresses in one, with no gap in between!

Noise and Movement Sensitivity

Sharing a bed means dealing with the noise and movement generated by your partner. Whether it’s snoring, restless leg syndrome, lots of tossing, or simply different sleep schedules, these disturbances can significantly impact sleep quality for the other partner. Sleeping in separate beds eliminates these disturbances, allowing each partner to enjoy a peaceful and undisturbed night’s sleep.

If this is your reason for seeking separate beds, but you would rather stay in one bed with your partner, consider investing in an all memory-foam mattress, which comes with excellent motion isolation, so you virtually won’t feel your partner’s movements. If a sounding alarm is the issues, this cover includes a GentleRise alarm, which gently vibrate under one sleeper only, keeping the other person undisturbed.

Rekindling Intimacy and Connection

Embracing Quality Time Together

While separate beds provide personal space, it is crucial to prioritize quality time together as a couple, especially if you decide to sleep in separate beds. By consciously allocating time for shared activities, such as cuddling, reading, or engaging in intimate conversations before bedtime, couples can maintain a strong emotional connection and foster intimacy.

Make sure to include together-time in your nightly bedtime routine. After all, the sleeping part of the night, is a lonely exercise anyways!

Prioritizing Physical Intimacy

Sleeping in separate beds does not imply a lack of physical intimacy. In fact, it can allow couples to appreciate the importance of physical closeness when they come together. By intentionally designating certain nights or mornings for shared sleep, couples can enhance their physical intimacy and make it a special and cherished experience.

This experience can bring purpose and intention to the intimacy, making it a special time. Liz Higgins, licensed marriage and family therapist & relationship expert, mentions that using the end-of-day winding down routine to come together and reconnect, will help you cultivate intentional intimacy with your partner.

Communicating Openly and Honestly

Effective communication is vital in any relationship, including when discussing sleeping arrangements. When considering sleeping in separate beds and/or bedrooms, it is crucial for partners to openly express their needs, concerns, and desires regarding sleep. Share about the concerns you have with your current sleeping arrangement, the impact it has today on the quality of your sleep and days, and the fear that you have for the future if the situation stays unchanged.

By approaching the conversation with empathy and a willingness to find a solution that benefits both individuals, couples can strengthen their bond and find a compromise that works for them.

Maintaining Balance: Nights Together, Mornings Apart

Finding a Balance

The key to successfully sleeping in separate beds is finding a balance that works for both partners. It may involve designating specific nights to sleep together or even having separate beds in the same room. If you are not quite ready to sleep apart, consider separate mattresses on the same bed, or a split firmness mattress! All of those solutions allow couples to enjoy the benefits of individual sleep while still nurturing their connection as a couple.

Bedtime Rituals as a Couple

Maintaining a sense of togetherness can be achieved through shared bedtime rituals. By having an open discussion and being intentional, couples can establish routines such as reading together, enjoying a cup of herbal tea, or simply talking about their day before parting ways to their respective beds. Intimacy can absolutely be a part of the bedtime routine, so can watching a movie, reading in a common bed, massaging each other, etc. These rituals create a sense of closeness and ensure that the couple remains connected even in their separate sleeping spaces.

Remember that we are talking about the act of physically sleeping – when your body naturally moves from sleep phase to sleep phase and you are unconscious of most of your surroundings. Leading up to actual sleeping is a blank slate for you and your partner to create a routine that works for you and keeps you close.

Separate Sleeping Spaces, Shared Mornings

While nights may be spent in separate beds, mornings can be an opportunity for couples to reconnect. Waking up together, sharing breakfast, or engaging in morning activities allows partners to start their day with shared experiences and quality time, reinforcing their bond and nurturing their relationship. What can you include in a joined morning routine? Breakfast, coffee, meditation, yoga, working out, running around the neighborhood, showering, reading the news… the list is endless! Get creative and create something that works for the two of you. Remember that open communication is key!

Sleeping In Separate Beds

In a world that encourages individuality and emphasizes personal well-being, it is only natural that our sleeping habits evolve as well. While sleeping in separate beds may seem unconventional, it offers couples an opportunity to prioritize their sleeping needs, reinforce personal space, and ultimately strengthen their bond. By understanding and embracing the concept of separate sleeping spaces, couples can create a harmonious balance between restful sleep and quality time together. We encourage you to challenge traditional norms and embrace new possibilities for improved sleep and enhanced intimacy in your relationship.

References

FAQ

Most frequent questions and answers

Sharing a bed has long been associated with intimacy and togetherness in relationships. However, it’s important to recognize that relationship dynamics and societal norms have evolved. Sleeping in separate beds does not diminish the commitment or love between partners. Prioritizing individual sleeping needs can actually contribute to a healthier and more harmonious relationship overall.

Sleeping in separate beds does not have to negatively impact intimacy and connection. In fact, it can enhance them. By ensuring quality sleep and personal space, couples can approach each day feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, which positively affects emotional and physical intimacy. It’s essential to find other ways to foster connection and prioritize quality time together outside of the bedroom.

Approach the conversation with empathy and honesty. Express your own sleep needs and concerns, emphasizing that it’s not a reflection of the relationship. Listen to your partner’s perspective and concerns as well. Find a compromise that works for both of you, such as designating certain nights for shared sleep or exploring separate sleeping spaces within the same bedroom.

Sleeping in separate beds offers several benefits. It allows each partner to customize their sleep environment according to their preferences, resulting in fewer disruptions and improved sleep quality. It can reduce conflicts arising from differences in sleep schedules, snoring, or movement sensitivity. Additionally, it reinforces personal space, autonomy, and emotional well-being, which can contribute to a healthier relationship.

While sleeping in separate beds means physical distance during sleep, it does not mean a lack of physical closeness altogether. Couples can still engage in cuddling and physical intimacy during waking hours. Designate specific nights or mornings for shared sleep to maintain that physical connection.

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Isn't sharing a bed a fundamental aspect of a committed relationship?

Sharing a bed has long been associated with intimacy and togetherness in relationships. However, it's important to recognize that relationship dynamics and societal norms have evolved. Sleeping in separate beds does not diminish the commitment or love between partners. Prioritizing individual sleeping needs can actually contribute to a healthier and more harmonious relationship overall.

Will sleeping in separate beds negatively affect our intimacy and connection as a couple?

Sleeping in separate beds does not have to negatively impact intimacy and connection. In fact, it can enhance them. By ensuring quality sleep and personal space, couples can approach each day feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, which positively affects emotional and physical intimacy. It's essential to find other ways to foster connection and prioritize quality time together outside of the bedroom.

How do we communicate the desire to sleep in separate beds to our partner without hurting their feelings?

Approach the conversation with empathy and honesty. Express your own sleep needs and concerns, emphasizing that it's not a reflection of the relationship. Listen to your partner's perspective and concerns as well. Find a compromise that works for both of you, such as designating certain nights for shared sleep or exploring separate sleeping spaces within the same bedroom.

What are the potential benefits of sleeping in separate beds?

Sleeping in separate beds offers several benefits. It allows each partner to customize their sleep environment according to their preferences, resulting in fewer disruptions and improved sleep quality. It can reduce conflicts arising from differences in sleep schedules, snoring, or movement sensitivity. Additionally, it reinforces personal space, autonomy, and emotional well-being, which can contribute to a healthier relationship.

Won't sleeping in separate beds lead to a lack of physical closeness and cuddling?

While sleeping in separate beds means physical distance during sleep, it does not mean a lack of physical closeness altogether. Couples can still engage in cuddling and physical intimacy during waking hours. Designate specific nights or mornings for shared sleep to maintain that physical connection.

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Laura Georgieff

Laura is a mother of three who did not sleep through the night for the first 5.5 years of her kids' lives. She is passionate about sleep quality and loves sharing her experience and knowledge of all thing bedding! It is her mission to help you make the best decisions when it comes to sleep and help you get the best deal on the market!

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