The clock shows 4 a.m. You are ride awake trying to count sheep and count down the hours until the alarm goes off. Nothing is on your mind, but your bedroom feng shui is completely off the rails. But the problem is not the temperature of the room or a thunderstorm keeping you awake: the problem is the person sleeping soundly next to you.
Nocturnal disturbances may be one way to state the issue. Your sleep becomes inhibited because something is intruding on your body. It may be your emotional or spiritual health that is hurting, but what if the invasion was out of your control?
Bedroom divorce is not a common phrase but think about the Ricardos and “I Love Lucy.” During the early days of television, it was improper to show romantic scenes in the bedroom: a huge difference from 2019 shows. The focus was comedic performances from Ricky and Lucy with episodes showing a bedroom with twin size beds. Yes, they had a baby (a huge departure from tv plots in the 1950s and 1960s), but how it occurred remained undercover.
Maybe Lucy and Ricky Ricardo (and the censors) had it right all along: Sleep in your own bed.
While most couples consider sharing a bed to be an expression of intimacy and togetherness, research show there may be grounds for sleeping separately — like the bedroom scenes in the 1950s TV show “I Love Lucy,” starring Lucille Ball and her real-life husband, Desi Arnaz.
Couples who sleep in the same bedroom are more likely to experience nocturnal disturbances from their partner (like snoring, bad hygiene, tossing and turning and different schedules). And all this can lead to health problems, sexual dysfunction and marital spats.
A 2016 study from Paracelsus Private Medical University in Nuremberg, Germany, showed that sleep issues and relationship problems tend to occur simultaneously. In fact, a 2013 study from the University of California, Berkeley found that one partner’s sleepless night caused by disturbances from the other partner can result in conflicts in the relationship the next day.
“While there are benefits to sleeping together, one partner’s troublesome sleeping or annoying bed habits can affect the other and increase production of the stress hormone cortisol, thus causing issues that impact the couple as a whole,” said Mary Jo Rapini, a relationship and intimacy psychotherapist based in Houston.
A lot of reasons can cause the need for a bedroom divorce including snoring, sleep talking, sleep walking, bad hygiene, or tossing and turning. With each disturbance, marital strain can occur causing arguments or sexual frustrations.
By divorcing society’s norm of a couple sharing a bedroom and bed, a restful night sleep is in both partner’s future sustaining a healthy relationship. It doesn’t mean divorcing the idea of love, intimacy, or sexual relations, it is simply removing the issue that may cause moodiness or anger due to a lack of sleep.
The Better Sleep Council supports the idea of the bedroom divorce statistically showing 1 in 4 couples sleep better at night in separate bedrooms. In a market research poll for Slumber Cloud, 46 percent of the 2,000 Americans polled wish they could sleep in another room from their partner.
For some couples, this is a mutual decision where sleep does not affect the core of their relationships; for others, it is never discussed out of fear of hurting their partner’s feelings.
Wondering if a bedroom divorce is right for your relationship?
- Night owls versus early birds. Each have their own needs and a separate room may be helpful when one wants to read or watch tv and another wakes up early to workout.
- Health issues that demand a different mattress. Picking a mattress as a couple can be stressful. If one has health issues with their back or restless leg syndrome, a separate bedroom may be the answer.
- Pregnancy. There is no other way to get comfortable sometimes when pregnant so you may need to stay in a guest room until the baby arrives. Purchasing a maternity pillow may also do the trick and would require a king bed or your own bed.
- Men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Each gender has different needs in the bedroom including the number of quality sleep to be a productive part of work and society.
- Poor sleep hygiene. Just like men and women have different sleep needs, people have different sleep hygiene. If your partner attracted poor hygiene from college or living with roommates for years, it could be staying in the same bedroom is not in the cards for a proper night's sleep.
- Shift work could be a reason for a bedroom divorce with 15 percent of Americans working an abnormal shift outside the normal 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. traditional day.
- It could be a temporary issue that causes the bedroom divorce like PTSD or grief after a death of a loved one. In either case, seeking professional help is the first step to remove any barriers emotionally or spiritually that is hindering your sleep. But there are also some possible remedies to try as well if you are suffering from PTSD or grief.
For some reading this blog, sleeping alone in separate quarters is not what you want. Instead, think about all the ways you can make the bedroom you share with your loved one a place of restful sleep.
What to track for your doctor will be helpful when you find yourself out of options and in need of some expert help.
Start a sleep journal so you can bring this to your appointment.
- Wake up and bedtime
- The last time and meal you last ate
- The season and room temperature
- How tired you were at work
- The last drink you took (water, caffeine)
- Any medications you took
- Time of day and amount of exercise during the day
If you live in Alaska and want to see if a sleep study is right for you, contact The Alaska Sleep Clinic by clicking the link below for a free 10-minute phone call with a sleep educator who can help determine if a sleep study is necessary or if a consultation with our sleep specialist needs to be scheduled.