If you've ever watched TV shows from back in the day, you might've noticed that on-air couples always slept in separate beds. While it seems strange nowadays, maybe they were onto something.
Anyone who's ever fought for a sliver of sheet or dodged a stray arm can admit: Shared sleeping is a challenge. That's why some duos ditch their shared nighttime digs for separate quarters.
And before you balk at the idea of sleeping in separate beds, consider this: "There are many healthy relationships that don't sleep in the same room because they are able to take care of their own overall needs and still remain connected," says Kristie Overstreet, PhD, sexologist, psychotherapist and creator of the Ideal Intimacy Method.
In fact, a separate sleeping strategy may even optimize your overall health, strengthen a couple's connection and spice up your sex life (more on this later).
"By prioritizing sleep as a couple, you can both reap benefits for your health, wellbeing and the health of your relationship," says Wendy Troxel, PhD, a senior behavioral and social scientist at the RAND Corporation and author of Sharing the Covers: Every Couple's Guide to Better Sleep.
Do we have your attention? Read on to learn more about how separate bunking can boost your bond in and out of the sheets. Now go ahead and hog the bed.
Why Couples May Choose to Sleep in Separate Beds
"It's not uncommon for couples to sleep in separate bedrooms," Overstreet says. And there's a whole host of relatable reasons why partners may prefer solo sleeping.
A few examples include:
- One partner is a loud snorer.
- One partner has a bad cold.
- One partner has insomnia or another sleep disorder that is disruptive to the other.
- One partner is a restless sleeper or a sheet-stealer.
- Sleep schedules are out of sync (e.g., one partner is a morning lark, the other is a night owl).
- Sleep preferences are different (e.g., one partner likes the room hot, the other likes it cold).
5 Benefits of Sleeping in Separate Beds
Sleeping apart may help your health and your relationship. Here are a few benefits of bedding by yourself:
1. Better Sleep
From a practical standpoint, separate beds can boost sleep quality. When you no longer need to contend with snoring, kicking or bumping limbs, you can catch more restful zzzs.
And that's good news, because uninterrupted sleep is essential to overall health. In fact, insufficient sleep increases your risk of developing serious medical conditions, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease, according to Harvard Medical School.
"Regardless of sleeping arrangement, couples should prioritize getting healthy sleep as a critical goal for the health of their relationship."
2. Fewer Arguments
If your partner's sleep patterns are sabotaging your shut-eye, chances are you're feeling irritable.
"Sleep loss compromises our ability to regulate our emotions, our communication skills and our ability to show empathy — all of which are cornerstones of healthy relationships," Troxel says.
It's no surprise then that when a couples' sleep suffers, they are more likely to feel resentful, argumentative and hostile, she says.
Consequently, a separate bed split can make you feel more refreshed and help curb the conflict in your coupledom.
3. Increased Intimacy and Longing
You know the saying "absence makes the heart grow fonder?" Well, this is a perfect example.
"When you have separate rooms, it also allows you to miss one another," Overstreet says. You might find you're more excited to see each other, she adds.
And a little time apart can even build anticipation and spice things up in the bedroom, as there's something to look forward to upon reuniting, Troxel says.
4. Reduced Pressure to Have Sex
For some couples, sexy time before bed becomes the default. But if you've had a long day or you're just not in the mood, you might worry about feeling pressured to perform or rejecting your partner.
By sleeping in separate beds, you can eliminate this expectation to have sex, Overstreet says.
But that doesn't mean you can't get frisky before you slip off to your separate rooms, she adds. It just means that intimacy becomes more intentional and less forced or routine.
5. More 'Me Time'
At the end of a busy day, sometimes what you crave most may be a little personal space to relax and recharge. And sleeping solo can help you get that.
"When you're in separate rooms, it's more likely you will sleep uninterrupted and have time for self-care, including reading, watching TV or anything just for you without interfering with or disturbing your partner," Overstreet says.
6 Tips for Couples Sleeping in Separate Beds
If you're contemplating a sleep vacation from your significant other, here's how to approach it in a way that strengthens — not sacrifices — your relationship.
1. Make It a Mutual Decision
Before you split to separate rooms, you must have a thoughtful conversation. "This needs to be a joint decision with both people seeing how they can benefit from it," Overstreet says.
Troxel agrees: "The key is to have open and honest communication."
2. Don't Make It Mean Something Bad
While a stigma may still exist around separate beds, it shouldn't.
"There is a misconception that sleeping in separate rooms is always a bad thing, and that's not the case," Overstreet says. Sleeping single doesn't have to signal a negative move in the relationship, she says.
Don't see the separate sleeping arrangement as a sign of abandonment or conflict, but rather as a mutually beneficial and relationship-enhancing goal, Troxel says.
In other words, you're a team, and you're cooperating in your pair's best interest.
"The focus should be on how do we as a couple get the best sleep we can, so that we can be the best partners we can be," Troxel says.
3. Start With a Trial
Couples don't need to commit to this separate sleeping arrangement forever. "Start by trying it as a trial experience for one month to see how it goes," Overstreet says. After the trial period, assess how you feel. "You can always change your mind at any time," she says.
"For some, this may be a temporary strategy (for example, among couples with a newborn, sleeping apart for a time might allow each partner to take turns being 'on-call' for infant care)," Troxel says.
"In other cases, where the situation is unlikely to change (for example, if the couple has different sleep-wake schedules due to one partner's occupation) then sleeping apart may be a more permanent arrangement," Troxel says.
But whatever the scenario, it's vital to remain open: to communicate your needs and listen to those of your partner, which may fluctuate as circumstances change.
4. Compromise on Space
Everyone has a favorite bed or preferred sleeping environment. But what if you and your partner prefer the same space yet still want to sleep separately?
"If there's conflict about who gets which bedroom, switch out every few weeks so you can both experience the different rooms," Overstreet says.
5. Schedule Quality Time
If you choose to sleep apart, be proactive about scheduling quality time together in bed for intimacy and connection, Troxel says.
"For many couples, it is the time shared together before falling asleep (and potentially going their separate ways) that is most important for maintaining and sustaining a healthy relationship," she says.
6. Check In Often
If you or your partner start to feel distant or disconnected, don't ignore the feeling, Overstreet says. Instead, share it with your significant other.
Checking in frequently is a good way to stay close and feel bonded. "Oftentimes, just taking the time to talk and listen to one another will help reignite the connection," she says.