Is it time for a sleep divorce?

Put down the phone, you won’t need a solicitor for this kind of separation. This week we’re talking about the number two cause of poor sleep - partner disturbance - and the surprisingly simple solution: sleep divorces. 

It probably won’t surprise you that studies have shown couples who sleep in the same bed are far more likely to suffer nocturnal disturbances from their other half. In fact, studies have shown that a lack of sleep boosts production of the stress hormone cortisol by more than ten times in response to marital stress! 

The fact is, finding a partner who is the same chronotype as you (morning lark or night owl), has the same work schedule and the same sleep habits isn’t an easy feat. The old adage ‘finding a needle in a haystack’ is a bit of an understatement here. This sleepy mismatch has led to both partners suffering and consistently achieving poor sleep, with a side serving of health issues alongside it. The easiest way to rediscover a healthy nights’ sleep is with a sleep divorce - sleeping in separate beds.

Sharing a living space is one thing - we can adapt to tidiness and idiosyncrasies. But what about sleep habits? You can’t help what you do while you’re asleep. There are myriad reasons why your significant other may be impacting your sleep: 

  • They snore like a dragon
  • They hog the duvet 
  • You have different work schedules
  • They are an active sleeper (i.e. you go to bed with an MMA fighter)
  • They sleep talk
  • They can’t sleep so toss and turn all night

So what happens when you love your partner...but you also love your sleep?

You’re still madly in love - you love to kiss and cuddle and you have no plans to separate - but you are sick of being disturbed by your partner’s less-than-desirable nocturnal habits. This is confirmed by the data, which shows 38% of people would prefer not to share a bed with their partner but don’t say anything. We need to shed the stigma. 

A sleep divorce is not a step backwards, it just means prioritising your overall health and wellbeing. A quarter of married couples who self-reported being in a healthy relationship already sleep in different beds.

“But what about sex?!?” I hear you cry. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you to prioritise sleep over intimacy with your partner. But given the role both sleep and sex play in our mental and physical health, we should consider BOTH together when making decisions. The fact is, most people don’t have sex every night - the average UK couple will on average get jiggy with it only 1.6 to two times per week, with an average time length of 5.4 minutes. Therefore it simply doesn't make sense to have disturbed sleep seven nights a week. 

Is a sleep divorce right for me?

This is a personal decision but ask yourself these questions: 

  1. Is my sleep regularly disturbed by my partner?
  2. Do we argue often about their [insert sleep habit]?
  3. Do I feel like I need more sleep?

If you answer yes to any of these, trialling a sleep divorce could be a good option. It’s not an all or nothing. You could sleep separately during the work week and sleep together on weekends. Give a sleep separation a trial and see how you both get on. If you wake up with a pep in your step and feel more ready to take on the world, it's probably worth continuing it long-term. You might just find that when you’re both well-slept, you can enjoy your waking time together far more. 

As with so much, communication is key within any relationship. If you’re struggling with your sleep then have an open, honest conversation with your partner. Discuss the reasons why you would like to explore this and help them understand it’s not personal. Continue these conversations throughout your trial sleep separation and work to find a solution that prioritises intimacy, sleep, and wellness equally. 

Have you tried a sleep divorce? Or are you considering one? Let us know in the comments below!