SLEEP is the ultimate ‘me’ time. But for those sharing a bed with a partner, unintentionally bad sleeping etiquette can mean it begrudgingly becomes all about your other half.
If you’ve ever awoken to your partner happily cocooned in the 12 tog while you’re clinging on to a hankies-worth, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
It’s for this reason some couples have taken to sleeping separately – one in four to be precise. That’s according to research undertaken by The Sleep Council, and if anyone knows a good night’s sleep it’s them.
Jessica Alexander from The Sleep Council said: “Unfortunately, over time, all sorts of practical issues can get in the way and – particularly among more mature couples whose children may have left home – the call of the spare bed becomes increasingly difficult to resist. The result is a growing number of couples sleeping in separate rooms and unfortunately that can be the beginning of the end for many marriages.”
But is it really that big of a deal?
Where snorers and those who like to sleep mimicking the shape of a star fish are concerned, separation can surely save your sanity, let alone your relationship.
After all, this isn’t about sex, it’s about shut eye and the physiological importance of getting enough of it. While you may be completely and harmoniously compatible with your partner in all other aspects of life, sleep is the one time you’re not fully, if at all, in control of your actions.
Take sheet sharing for example. Your bed could be the size of an Olympic trampoline but unless you’ve opted for individual sleeping bags (which would be a bit weird let’s be honest) there’s always going to be a tug-o-war over the duvet at some point during the night. If you’ve ever awoken to your partner happily cocooned in the 12 tog while you’re clinging on to a hankies-worth, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Then they wake up and deny it, of course.
Snoring is often another cause for separate beds and who can blame them (the victims that is)? From the snore that would easily win a sound clash with a pneumatic drill, to the featherweight breathy snore that could be considered cute if it wasn’t making you late for work every day, everyone has their own snore threshold.
Sleeping together hasn’t always been an issue mind. In fact, it used to be fun didn’t it....when it wasn’t every night. But the reality of a lifelong battle over body heat, space rationing, sleeping patterns and nocturnal noises can be too much to bear for even the most complete of couples. That’s not to throw the whole relationship into question then, but rather free yourself from the social stigma attached to sleeping separately surely?
All things considered, why do we even bother spending a third of our lives forcing ourselves to put up with another person’s sleeping habits? Can't we just sleep apart without falling apart? As Jessica from The Sleep Council quite rightly points out, for long spouses, it all comes down to a crazy little thing called love. Ahhhh.
"Sharing a bed is the ultimate intimacy” she said. “Research from America suggests that this intimacy helps to lower stress hormones and encourage feelings of safety and security.”
In addition evidence also suggests couples who sleep together not only stay together but stay healthier too. So next time the couch is calling out, perhaps try The Sleep Council’s top ten tips (below) to combat what they call ‘Separate Rooms Syndrome’.
A change might very well be as good as a rest where sleeping routines are concerned. Don’t even get me started on the issue of separate bathrooms though...
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1. Both partners going to bed at the same time at least three nights a week. Different body clocks mean many couples tuck up at different times – alarm bells should sound when that starts to happen every night of the week.
2. Ensure the shared bed is comfortable for both partners and not just suited to one. Be sure to shop together for a new bed and get one that suits both people. Modern technology means even couples with different preferences can find a bed that suits them both thanks to zip-and-link or zoned mattresses.
3. Where duvet hogging is an issue, separate single duvets can work wonders.
4. Separate duvets can also work for bed sharers who have different temperature requirements. As a comfortable temperature (between 18 and 24 degrees centigrade) is essential to a good night’s sleep, individual duvets with a tog rating suited to each partner will put an end to heated debates of the ‘too warm, too cold’ nature.
5. Buy as big a bed as budget and room size allow. A standard double bed is only 4’6” wide which gives each person just the width of a baby’s cot to sleep in. More room means less partner disturbance.
6. Ensure the bedroom is an oasis of calm and tranquillity – ie. no tellies or any other technology likely to distract attention away from sleep and intimacy.
7. Make sure window coverings effectively block out the light. Long summer days may be welcome in many ways but light can have a detrimental effect on body clocks and sleeping patterns.
8. Develop a bedtime routine that works for both people. Body clocks need regularity and routine for successful sleep – share a warm milky or herbal drink or even a bath together before going to bed. And try to go to bed and get up at roughly the same time each day.
9. Remember that caffeine, alcohol, smoking and exercising or eating too close to bedtime can all make it more difficult to grab a great night’s sleep.
10. When snoring becomes a significant and ongoing problem, seek help. What starts off as a niggle can become a major issue for many couples – so get it sorted.