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Why More Married Couples Are Sleeping In Separate Beds

Newsweek 9/30/2022 Lucy Notarantonio

A survey has revealed one in ten US adults rarely or never have a good night's sleep, and around 25 percent of American couples choose to sleep in separate beds from their partner, according to the National Sleep Foundation. But, is it healthy for couples to sleep separately?

Naturepedic's study 'For bed or for worse' found that while sleeping separately improved sleep quality and reduced stress, sleeping together resulted in healthier sex lives and happier relationships.

However, while snoring and conflicting sleep/wake schedules were the main reasons couples chose to sleep apart, with 57% and 56% of the overall vote, respectively, the study found that different generations had different reasonings for sleeping separately.

According to the study, 63% of Millennials and 62% of Gen Z-ers say conflicting sleep/wake schedules are why they sleep in separate beds or rooms. 68% of Baby Boomers report snoring was their deciding factor. 23% of Gen X and 28% of Millennials who sleep apart also reported that "intimacy issues" were a significant cause. Gen Z-ers were the most likely to say they wanted control over their mattress' firmness or softness. And 54% of Millennials stated sleep disorders caused them to sleep separately, compared to only 22% of Baby Boomers.

Lancaster University professor Hilary Hinds found that couples chose to sleep in twin beds in the late 19th century as a health precaution.

In her book, A Cultural History of Twin Beds, Hinds found that doctors warned of the "dire consequences of bed-sharing". In 1861, doctor and health campaigner William Whitty Hall's book Sleep: Or the Hygiene of the Night, advised that each sleeper "should have a single bed in a large, clean, light room, so as to pass all the hours of sleep in a pure fresh air, and that those who fail in this, will, in the end, fail in health and strength of limb and brain, and will die while yet their days are not all told".

In the 1880s, a series of articles by Dr Benjamin Ward Richardson warned of the risks of inhaling a bedfellow's germs: "I cannot do better than commence what I have to say concerning beds and bedding by protesting against the double bed. The system of having beds in which two persons can sleep is always, to some extent, unhealthy."

By the 1920s, twin beds were seen as a fashionable, modern choice. "Separate beds for every sleeper are as necessary as are separate dishes for every eater," wrote Dr Edwin Bowers in his 1919 volume, Sleeping for Health. "They promote comfort, cleanliness, and the natural delicacy that exists among human beings."

Couples and marriages changed after World War II. Twin beds fell out of fashion by the 1960s, bringing to an end what Hinds calls "a bold experiment in 20th-century living".

In her viral Tik Tok video, @reneereina_ explains why she has chosen to have her own bedroom, as opposed to sleeping with her snoring husband who has a different sleep schedule.

Renee Grenon, 37, from Toronto, Canada, and Pre Moodley, 37, who is a surgeon, began sleeping separately when their son Milo, now four, was born. Renee, who is a podcaster, describes sleep as a "luxury" for parents and it soon became one of her top priorities as a mom.

Speaking to Newsweek, Renee said: "Before we had our son, we stayed in the same bed in the same room. I was a student and my husband is a physician, as soon as we had Milo, I was very anxious sleeping with the monitor – any sound through the monitor, I would be up for hours and I couldn't fall back to sleep.

"My husband is able to sleep through noises. I started to sleep in a different room with and husband with the monitor, so I could get some rest ahead of a day at home with Milo.

"Once you have kids, sleep isn't in your control anymore, before Milo, if my husband was on call at night, it wasn't a big deal, I could go to bed early the next day or have a nap. But when you have another human to look after, you can't do that."

Renee is hoping her openness about her sleeping arrangement de-stigmatizes sleeping separately.

She said: "I am trying to take the stigma away from it. It's very common for parents to do this but people don't talk about it because they are scared of judgment. They think others will assume there are problems in the marriage. It's not the case at all. It's a luxury being able to sleep by yourself, not everyone has the space. I sleep in the main room and my husband is in the guest room. We have separate bathrooms too so even that is glorious."

Renee revealed many people assume her marriage is lacking intimacy but she insists her sex life is thriving.

Newsweek spoke to three relationship experts to find out more about the impact sleeping in a separate bed from your spouse has on the relationship.

'You Can Maintain A Healthy Sex Life By Sleeping Separately'

Gill Booth is a counselor specializing in relationships and psychosexual therapy.

She told Newsweek: "It is possible for sex lives to dwindle when sleeping in different beds and there can also be a general reduction in overall communication creating distance.

"But as a sex therapist, I know of couples who do sleep separately but still maintain a healthy sex life and good quality communication. The key to a successful relationship between the sheets is to talk to each other about your likes and dislikes regarding sleeping arrangements. Once this conversation has been concluded and agreements have been decided make sure that the situation is then reviewed in three to six months' time to check if either wants to change the arrangement."

'There Must Be A Healthy Balance Of Emotional And Physical Intimacy'

Jamie Schenk DeWitt, MA, is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. Based in Los Angeles, California, Jamie's clinical training enables her to provide therapy to clients dealing with issues such as relationship concerns, anxiety, depression, parenting, sex, productivity issues at work or school, and life transitions.

Speaking to Newsweek, she said: "There's no hard and fast rule for couples to follow regarding sleeping together. It can be good for some couples and bad for others.

"To determine if sleeping in a different bed works for a couple, they need to understand what motivates the separation. If they are harmonious in their reasons for sleeping in different beds, then it can work and be a meaningful solution for a better night's rest. However, if sleeping in a different bed is a means to avoid conflict and intimacy, then it can be one more nail in the coffin of a relationship that is not working.

"If the motivation to sleep in a different bed is driven by unresolved conflict, then it can intensify an already tension-filled relationship. What is meaningful is the impetus behind sleeping separately. If the idea is to distance yourself more from your partner, then sleeping apart can be another significant step towards the dissolution of the relationship. Ultimately, what matters is keeping a relationship fortified with a healthy balance of emotional and physical intimacy. Every couple has a different percentage of what they need in this department. If each person feels fulfilled, then drifting apart will be less likely."

'Moving To Another Bedroom Isn't Helping Those With Low Libido'

Dr.Gail Crowder is a Certified Marriage Coach and she has authored several books related to marriage and sex, which include her signature book. "Bringing Sexy Back To The Marriage".

In a short video on Tik Tok, Dr. Crowder shares her thoughts on sleeping separately, you can watch it here.

Gail, who is based in Maryland, told Newsweek: "I see this as problematic. The most common reasons I hear in my coaching sessions are emotional baggage, snoring, low libido, and children in bed or interrupting their sleep."

Gail shared some quick tips to get back in bed with your spouse:

  • Get to the root cause of what made you leave the bedroom in the first place and work together to create solutions like having a sleep routine that puts you both in bed at the same time, even if it is not for the full night.
  • If at-home snoring remedies haven't worked then the snoring spouse may need to see medical attention.
  • Low libido could be happening for many reasons and moving to another room isn't helping. Acknowledge the issue. Talk to a professional, either a doctor or an Intimacy coach like myself, and commit to reconnecting with one another.
  • Focus on intimacy and foreplay outside of the bedroom such as hugging, kissing, dating, holding hands, and stimulating conversations.
  • Develop a game plan together for the return to the bed. You may start with every other day, so you can get used to sleeping together again.

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