2 Ways A 'Sleep Divorce' Can Actually Fix Relationship Issues
Curling up in different beds can help you put major relationship problems to sleep.
By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | September 21, 2023
'Sleep divorce' is a phrase used to describe the trend of couples choosing to sleep in separate beds despite living under the same roof. While it paints a dramatic picture of a trouble-in-paradise situation, the motives behind this trend are benign and, in fact, firmly rooted in practicality and science.
In some relationships, partners may have distinct sleep habits that directly affect the other's quality of sleep. Common issues include:
- Loud snoring. One partner's consistent snoring can keep the other awake, leading to sleep deprivation.
- Different sleep schedules. If one partner is a night owl while the other is an early riser, it can disrupt mutual sleep patterns.
- Restlessness. A partner who tosses and turns, frequently gets up or has restless leg syndrome can disturb the other's sleep.
- Sleep apnea. Partners who have sleep apnea not only snore loudly but may also have irregular breathing patterns, causing concern and disruption to the other.
In such cases, opting for separate beds or even separate rooms could be the key to improving not just the quality of one's sleep, but the quality of one's relationship as well.
A 2014 study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science highlighted the profound connection between sleep and relationship dynamics. The results revealed that even just one partner's poor night of sleep can lead to increased conflicts. Following restless nights, couples reported more disputes, with a noticeable decrease in positive interactions.
More than just affecting mood, the study also showed how poor sleep diminished a crucial aspect of relationship dynamics: empathy. Both partners displayed reduced empathic accuracy, making it harder to understand and resonate with each other's feelings. This suggests that even occasional sleep disturbances could escalate minor disagreements into more significant disputes, putting relationships at risk.
If you are considering a sleep-divorce arrangement with your partner, it's important to approach the conversation with open-mindedness, understanding and empathy. Here are two strategies you and your partner can adopt to make your new sleeping arrangement a relationship game-changer.
1. Weekend Sleep-Ins Together Can Add A Spark To Your Relationship
During the weekdays, when routines are strict and the stress of work looms, having separate sleeping spaces can be a blessing. It ensures that both partners get a good night's sleep, especially if their weekday routines differ.
However, the weekends offer an opportunity for couples to reconnect. Designating weekends for sleeping together can serve as a mini-reunion, a time to cherish the closeness and intimacy of sharing a bed. It's a chance to reinforce the bond and reminisce about the early days of the relationship.
What's more, planning the weekend sleep-ins with your partner can reignite the spark within a dead bedroom. A recent study published in The Journal of Sex Research has found that sexual satisfaction is connected to our implicit sexual beliefs (that is, whether sex is a spontaneous act or one that needs to be planned out) more than the actual context in which a sexual experience occurs. So, as long as a couple is compatible in terms of sex drive, the build-up to the weekend can bring excitement into the relationship.
In this way, the mix of individual space on weekdays and togetherness during weekends creates a balance, ensuring both partners get their sleep and their share of intimacy.
2. Prioritizing Pre-Sleep Rituals Can Strengthen Your Bond
Pre-sleep rituals are essential routines that signal to the brain it's time to wind down. If you're considering sleeping separately, it's a great idea to emphasize and share these pre-sleep rituals before parting for the night.
This can be as simple as watching a show together, playing a board game, discussing the day's highlights or even practicing a joint meditation or relaxation routine. This shared ritual not only provides an opportunity to bond but also ensures that both partners are mentally prepared for rest. Once the ritual concludes, each can retreat to their sleeping space, knowing they've had that quality time together.
Reinforcing these rituals fosters closeness and ensures that, while sleep might be separate, the emotional connection remains intact.
The concept of "sleep divorce" might sound unconventional, but when approached with care and mutual respect, it can prove to be beneficial for many couples. Prioritizing individual sleep needs doesn't mean diminishing the relationship; in fact, it can lead to healthier interactions, better understanding and a deeper bond between partners. Remember, it's not about sleeping apart but sleeping well to be the best version of yourselves, together.