A “Couple” of Sleep Problems

By the time a couple has been together 20 years, they’ll have spent over 50,000 hours (roughly six to seven years) together in their bed. You’d think they’d have everything worked out by then . . . . Yet an estimated 23 percent of U.S. couples sleep apart, according to a survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation. A survey of builders and architects even reports an uptick in the request for dual master bedrooms!

For the other 77 percent of couples that do sleep together, the National Sleep Foundation survey indicates that one partner loses an average of 49 minutes of sleep per night due to some disruptive behavior, such as snoring, tossing and turning, watching TV, or preferring a warmer or cooler room.

Yet despite this, many psychologists warn that sleeping apart might not be a good solution to sleep issues. They believe that sleeping comfortably with your partner is an essential component of a healthy relationship. So before resorting to separate beds or bedrooms, it’s important to identify and attempt to resolve those potentially disruptive conflicts, even before they occur.

To put it in perspective, most marriages in the United States today start when the couples are in their mid to late twenties— and have therefore spent about a quarter of a century developing their own personal sleep habits and routines. There is an initial period of unlearning and relearning when it comes to sharing the bedroom, and for a while there is relative calm.

But as life progresses, our sleep patterns and habits slowly transform. We change careers, have children, gain weight, get pets. We age. And as we do, we may begin to snore, sleep warm, develop aches and pains, sleep more lightly and wake more frequently. We age at different rates, and men and women age uniquely, introducing potential conflicts in the bedroom.

The good news: most of these new “incompatibilities” are easily addressed once they are acknowledged and targeted. In the end, the real goal is simply to improve everybody’s sleep quality. Solving the “offender’s” issue will allow both partners to sleep better. If one simply traipses off to another bedroom without addressing the real problem, there could be unresolved consequences for one or both of you.

Subtle changes in sleeping habits or bedtime routines could help. Sleep accessories such as eye masks, ear plugs or sound machines have helped many. New bedding technologies can solve temperature disputes or disturbances from motion created by tossing and turning.

Finally, the solution may be something more involved. Millions of Americans have developed sleep disorders that require medical intervention. Any serious unresolved sleep issue should be discussed with your primary healthcare provider. After all, it’s about improving sleep. Everyone’s sleep.