Maybe it was his snoring. Or her blanket-hogging. Or that tossing and turning he does whenever he has a nightmare about evil clowns. Whatever it was, you’ve woken up feeling like you haven’t slept a wink all night.
If that scenario sounds familiar, you’re probably also familiar with how the rest of your day goes after a sleepless night: you’re grumpy, lethargic, and—yep, it’s not just your imagination—prone to picking more fights with your significant other.
A study has found that even one night of bad sleep quality can increase relationship conflict the next day—the worse couples slept, the less empathy they showed towards their partner, the more negativity they felt about the relationship, the harder they found it to resolve differences, and the more selfish feelings they had.
So what are the snorers and tossers and turners of the world to do?
Science says the answer is obvious
You should sleep in separate beds, according to research.
Banishing one person to sleep on the couch may seem like the end-result of sleep-deprived bickering, but a study from Ryerson University in Toronto claims it may actually solve your issues. According to this study, 30 to 40 percent of couples already sleep apart (who knew?)… and they’re better off for it.
Sleeping in separate beds helps you achieve deep sleep
The Ryerson University study used brain monitoring during sleep to find that couples who share a bed don’t slip into the deep stages of sleep, whereas those who sleep apart do.
As well, a University of Illinois College of Medicine study revealed that couples who sleep apart spend more time in deep sleep than when they are together. These researchers monitored 28 married couples who were “good sleepers.” After spending three nights in a lab with and without their spouse and having their brain waves monitored throughout, it was revealed that the couples achieved more deep sleep when alone.
Deep sleep is what helps restore your energy, boost your immune system, repair muscles and tissues, and stimulate growth and development. Constantly getting woken up by your partner during this stage can lead to feeling mentally and physically sluggish the next day.
Couples who sleep apart are less tense and fight less
Sleep deprivation can sink a marriage. A 2013 study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that wives who had a night of poor sleep were more negative towards their spouse the next day. (This was determined via electronic diaries where the spouses assessed their marital interactions toward each other, such as feeling ignored, criticized or cared for).
Couples who sleep apart are more affectionate
Rotten sleep not only makes couples crankier, but it can also create a general lack of gratitude and expression. Take, for instance, this UC Berkeley study. In it, researchers asked people in relationships to document their sleep patterns and track of how grateful they were toward their partners. When spouses had been sleeping well, their partner received more affection. When tired, however, their partner received less love.
Sleeping apart gives you clearer minds and increased intelligence
At least for men, anyway. A study conducted by the University of Vienna used questionnaires and a wrist activity monitor to assess the sleep patterns of couples after spending ten nights together and ten nights apart. When the men snoozed with their wives, their sleep was more disturbed, and the following day they had a harder time performing basic cognitive tasks.
Couples who sleep apart have greater sex drives
Sure, bed-sharers have proximity on their side. But women who get more sleep report having a greater sex drive the following day, according to a recent survey from the University of Michigan Medical School. Connecting the dots, it’s fair to say that ladies who aren’t constantly being woken up by bathroom breaks, snores, and midnight jabs to the neck might be more interested in other acts.
With all those benefits, there’s still a stigma to pulling a Lucy and Ricky Ricardo come nighttime. Some even think that separate beds is a sign of a troubled relationship.
But Colleen Carney, director of Ryerson University’s Sleep and Depression Laboratory urges couples to ignore the taboo and try it if they feel they could benefit. “People can have very good and satisfying relationships sleeping apart,” Carney says. “Some people might be headed to divorce and then they actually sleep apart and find this new way to connect.”
The guys we’ve spoken to agree. Playboy’s Kevin Klein had this to say:
I’ve shared beds, couches, futons, air-mattresses, sleeping bags, shag carpeting and even Volvo backseats with many different women over the years, and as much as I enjoy being in close proximity for impromptu sex, the lazy guy in me likes the idea of having my own sleeping space.
Like most guys, I can fall asleep anywhere: Movie theaters, concerts, parades, shooting ranges. But for some strange reason, when it comes to sleeping (not sleeping) with a girl, I wish I still had my bunk beds. Before you judge me, let me explain.
For me to sleep, as is the case with my father, his father, and every branch up our lazy family tree, we require nothing. Although a pillow or a blanket or a bed would be nice, it is by no means a prerequisite.
Women, on the other hand, have pre-sleep rituals that boggle a guy’s brain, including (but not limited to) lotions, potions, blindfolds, special underwear, scented pillows, extra blankets, lucky t-shirts, socks(?), stuffed animals, earplugs and more.
Every woman whom I have shared a bed with has brought along her own unique sleep routine. Some need to be rocked gently to sleep, while others think my bed is the set of The View and want to talk and talk…and talk. One girl I dated would get mad at me if I fell asleep before her (it only happened every night), while another would wake me up every time she had a dream so that she could tell me all about it (I hope that unicorn still visits you, Jessica). I’ve encountered kickers, snorers, flailers, tossers, turners, talkers, screamers, and some who just undress while they sleep, which seems cool until you wake up with a thong cutting off the circulation to your big toe.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to bring us back to the 1950s, but every once in a while when I check into a hotel that only has rooms with side by side queen beds, let’s just say I’m not complaining.
Like Kevin says, there’s just so much practical upside to it. For some couples, sleeping separately is just easier, due to nighttime nuisances (snoring, restless legs) or simply a desire to have more bed space.
Also, the celebs already swear by it. Just ask these celebrity couples who all reportedly sleep or slept in separate beds or rooms.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip
If you want to sleep like royalty, it may be time to get your own room. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were said to share separate bedrooms in their home at Buckingham Palace. The prince’s cousin, Lady Pamela Hicks, explained in an interview that it’s simply something the upper class of England likes to do. Seems like it worked out nicely!
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie slept in separate beds according to one of their former bodyguards. Given their busy schedules, it’s probably a question of coming-and-going logistics. Still, they manage to balance things out a bit; in an interview with Vanity Fair, Jolie said that sometimes the entire family of eight will crawl into bed together. She calls it “family sleep.”
So, would you sleep in separate beds from your partner for the sake of deep sleep?
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