Sleeping with your partner in the same bed is synonymous with relationship bliss. Waking up next to the love of your life, cosy cuddles, and sex? What’s not to like, right? For a number of couples, the answer is — everything. While tradition says partners should sleep together in the same bed, that choice might not be the most beneficial when it comes to sleep quality, which can in turn affect the relationship. It’s no wonder that many couples are opting for separate sleeping arrangements with many crediting them for saving their relationship.
“Sleep is necessary for everyone, so if sharing a bed with your partner inhibits you from getting a restful sleep, then separate beds might be a solution,” Carolyn Rubenstein, PhD, licensed psychologist, tells Lifehacker.
Curious if having separate beds — or even bedrooms — might benefit your relationship? Here’s what you need to know.
What are some signs a couple might need to sleep separately?
Sleeping separately doesn’t need to me there is a fatal flaw in your relationship, or that one person is in the doghouse for something they did. It might just mean you have incompatible sleeping habits — and that’s OK.
“People like different temperatures when sleeping, blanket thickness, and some like complete silence and darkness,” Rubenstein says. “There are multiple reasons why a couple might need to sleep separately. If a partner snores, has disturbing sleep habits, a conflicting work schedule, or a different circadian rhythm, sleeping separately might be the answer.”
How sleeping separately can benefit your relationship
According to Rubenstein, there are a variety of benefits to a couple choosing to sleep separately. One primary advantage, she says, is that if one partner’s sleep habits tend to disrupt the other, sleeping in separate beds can allow for long, more restful sleep for both individuals.
“When our bodies don’t get the rest required, we run the risk of mental and physical health ailments, which can hurt a relationship,” she explains. “Furthermore, sleeping in separate beds can allow for increased prioritisation of intimacy within the relationship. Not being able to roll over and touch your partner means that there has to be more thought in finding intimate moments and prevents couples from taking it for granted.”
How to talk to your partner about sleeping separately
There remains a strong cultural stigma surrounding separate beds or bedrooms. People, including your partner, might think your need for a separate sleeping area means that you don’t love your partner or find them as attractive. When broaching the topic, Rubenstein recommends assuring your partner that all is well and that the love and attraction are still there.
“Your partner could begin to think the worst, so it is essential to be sensitive and listen to their thoughts on the topic,” she says. “The key is to let your partner know that you have not decided on your own but instead want to work out a decision together as a couple. Clearly state your reasoning behind liking the idea and have an open mind throughout the conversation. Lastly, it is essential to note that it may require more than one conversation; the conversation may need to be ongoing.”
What are the possible downsides of sleeping separately?
While there are obvious benefits to having separate sleeping areas, Rubenstein notes that sleeping separately is not for every couple and is a decision that should be discussed and decided together. “Being in separate beds and rooms can risk the intimacy of a relationship, both emotional and sexual,” she says. “It also can leave one partner in the relationship with feelings of distance and abandonment. On a practical level, it could mean increased expenses due to obtaining a new bedroom set or moving into a larger home.”
Why living separately might be the best option
Going one step further, couples might even consider living in separate residences to help their relationship thrive. According to Rubenstein, this arrangement can work for partners with very different personalities who could clash when living together but don’t necessarily need to break up because of it.
“They have space to be themselves and come together when they want,” she says. “As the saying goes, ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder.’ When living in separate residences, couples can individually flourish and create schedules for when to see each other or have dinner together. Because they are not together 24/7, there is a heightened excitement and novelty when they see each other.”
Don’t worry about what others think
Sleeping or living separately might garner some raised eyebrows from those around you, but as Rubenstein points out, “Just because something is considered ‘normal’ doesn’t mean it [will] work for you. All the time, in other aspects of life, we applaud taking not-so-normal approaches and thinking outside the box to solve problems, so why should choosing to sleep separately be considered any different?”
She suggests being open about discussing and educating friends and family who are curious about your sleeping arrangements, which will help remove the stigma and make the practice more widely accepted. In the end, she recommends prioritising doing what’s right for your relationship. “Take steps to mitigate any relationship issues that might occur from sleeping apart,” she says. “You can elect to stay in the same bed and chat, cuddle, and have sex until it is time to go to sleep. This way, you are not missing out on intimate moments. The ‘separate’ is merely a practical issue.”
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