My husband and I have been living together for 8 years, and for 7 of them, we’ve been sleeping in different bedrooms. No, it is not because we argue a lot or because of children (we don’t have children), but just because we like it this way. It seems like it’s not a big deal, right? You sleep in different bedrooms or don’t go on vacations together — who cares? The most important thing is to be happy. But in fact, when you set your own rules in your marriage, you might encounter stereotypes that might make you think you’re doing it all wrong.
Especially for Bright Side, I’ve decided to talk about why we prefer to sleep this way, what advantages it gives us, and I will also share the reactions of our friends and relatives.
How it all started
Once, I woke up in bed alone. And I was totally sure that I had gone to bed with my boyfriend. When I snuck into the adjacent room, I found him sleeping peacefully on the couch. I thought, “Okay, I’ll deal with this in the morning.”
During breakfast the next day, we had this kind of a talk:
— I lost you last night, why did you go to the other room?
— You know, I couldn’t fall asleep. You were twisting and turning and breathing loudly and I woke up every time you moved.
— Hmm, okay. I never knew I breathed loudly.
The same thing happened the next night. We fell asleep together and we woke up separately. So, I realized that we had to talk about it.
In the conversation, we realized that it was hard for us to sleep together. My boyfriend remembered all our arguments that happened because he hadn’t slept enough: he snored, I woke him up, he didn’t have enough sleep, and he was irritated. Sometimes, I snored, he woke me up, and then I was unable to fall back asleep. Often, one of us would wake up because it was hot or because the other one got up to drink some water, and once I had a weird dream and I poked my boyfriend right in the eye.
Besides, we realized that we had completely different sleep schedules. At the time, I had a very flexible work schedule, so I was at the peak of my activity in the evening and at night — I could watch movies and read books until midnight and I woke up at about 9 a.m. — 10 a.m. And my boyfriend was supposed to be at work by 9 a.m., so it was very important for him to have a good night’s sleep. However, because of the problems that were caused by sleeping together, neither of us could sleep more than 6-7 hours. As a result, both he and I became more irritable, tired, and nervous.
So we came to the conclusion that it would be best for us to sleep in different bedrooms, and fortunately, we had enough space. I’ll be honest: in the beginning, I didn’t have the same opinion about sleeping separately as my boyfriend. It was a little weird for me because I was used to the fact that people sleep together. My parents started sleeping separately only after their 25th wedding anniversary. And my boyfriend felt great: he fell asleep much faster, he woke up easily, he made breakfast for us, and went to work happy.
Finally, our arguments stopped almost completely — most of our reasons for arguing just disappeared and both of us became much calmer in general. Besides, we started to work together much better — where before, it was hard for both of us to get up and collect ourselves.
The history of the problem and what science tells us
In order to learn more about sleeping separately, I started to read about the experience of the previous generations. So, I found that in Ancient Rome, a bed wasn’t even meant for sleeping together, it was only used for sex. After sex, both partners went to different rooms to sleep. In Great Britain during the Victorian era, people also didn’t sleep together. In Russia, before the Revolution, the aristocrats had different bedrooms, so it was a common thing in the past.
So, the tradition of sleeping together appeared along with the industrial revolution when people started moving into cities. Small apartments just didn’t leave any other option for spouses, except for sleeping in the same bed.
Later, once I already felt like I was an aristocrat, I decided to read something scientific about this question, and I found a book written by professor of sociology, Paul C. Rosenblatt, called Two in a Bed: The Social System of Couple Bed Sharing. He came to the conclusion that sleeping together often leads to the development of psychological problems and can even cause insomnia, or some other disorders. The scientist talked to dozens of married couples and found that the bedroom is often the “center of tension in the house.” So, spouses often argue over little everyday things, like if it’s okay to let pets in the bed, or if it’s normal to eat or smoke in bed.
Besides, there are a lot of conflicts that start because of snoring, watching TV, fighting for the blanket, or a glowing mobile phone screen. Finally, spouses often fight over the temperature in the bedroom: some people like it hot and others like it cold. The professor claims that, in most cases, the problem can easily be solved just by sleeping separately, but people can’t fight the stereotype that sleeping together is far more natural.
Another sleep expert, Dr. Neil Stanley, gave a speech at the British Science Festival and said, “Sleep is a selfish activity. Don’t share it with anyone.”
Psychologists also say that for men’s psyches, the necessity to share the bed with someone is an irritation. It is in their nature to protect the place where they sleep from a possible enemy. So, when there is someone next to a man at night, he can’t fully relax. The thing is, when people sleep together, their nervous system can’t relax and have a good rest. And it is not as bad for women — it is easier for them to deal with these troubles than it is for men who find sleeping alone much more comfortable. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it was true for my boyfriend.
The horrors from forums for women
There is still a very popular opinion that different beds for a husband and his wife is the first sign that there is something wrong with their marriage. Or, different blankets is the first sign and different bedrooms if the most obvious signal that this relationship is doomed.
I learned this from forums for women where everyone agreed: sleeping separately is completely awful. The arguments went like this: What about sex? What about spooning? Here is a classic answer to these types of questions:
After I read a lot of these comments, I found that the old stereotypes about sleeping together were still deep inside us. Our grandmothers believed in different signs and superstitions that could ruin a marriage. Some people will definitely remember this: don’t go to sleep until you make peace. They tried to follow a simple logic: if most people do this, this must be the right thing to do. Sleeping separately, or not going on vacation together is a shock.
I actually used to think that in the 21st century nothing could surprise me about relationships, but I was so wrong! Sleeping in the same bed under the same blanket is still a very important thing.
The examples of celebrities
By the way, it turns out that a lot of people in the US are interested in sleeping separately. A study actually showed that about 31% of people who were asked, would like to sleep separately. That’s consistent with a National Sleep Foundation survey that reported almost one in every 4 American couples sleep in separate bedrooms or beds.
I also found out that many celebrities prefer sleeping alone. For example, George and Amal Clooney choose to sleep separately. The reason is that George snores very loudly and Amal’s sleep is never very deep.
Besides, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas also decided to sleep in different bedrooms. Catherine once said that she didn’t want to look unattractive in front of her husband, so she and Michael agreed to sleep separately. Who knows, maybe this is why they have been happily married for 19 years?
Changes for the best
During the 7 years that my husband and I have been sleeping in different bedrooms, our life has improved a lot — I am completely sure about this and our relationship hasn’t gotten worse. More than that, we got married after about 5 years of sleeping separately. It seems to me that separate rooms not only allow us to sleep well, but they also make us more independent because every person wants to be alone sometimes.
Honestly, at this point, I don’t think that I could fall asleep hugging someone. The fact that I love a person doesn’t necessarily mean that I want to sleep in the same bed with them. When it comes to sex, for me, sex and sleep are 2 completely unrelated things. I have no idea where the stereotype about having sex before going to sleep came from. But we have a habit of coming into each other’s bedrooms before sleep, kissing each other, and saying goodnight. Besides, in order to make up for the lack of tactile contact, we just lie in bed and hug during the day.
If we are going on vacation we don’t book 2 separate rooms, we sleep in the same room. However, if it is possible, we book a room with 2 single beds. Besides, it is not as important to have good sleep when you are on vacation, you can always take a nap on the beach or at some other time.
What about our friends? They’re split into 2 groups. Some of them were pretty skeptical and they said that it would be hard for them to fall asleep without hugging their partner. The others said, “Wow, this is cool! Unfortunately, we live in a small apartment, so we can’t try that.”
It was a bit harder with our relatives. My mother-in-law was very sad and she said that it’s bad that now we are not able to sleep together anymore… My mother said, “Live as you wish, but when you are going to come visit us, bring 2 sets of bedsheets.”
The most important thing I’ve realized is that all couples are different and there is no such thing as one right answer on how to build a family life. If you are uncomfortable and you know exactly how to improve the situation, talk to your partner. Talk a lot but stay calm. Explain your position. Just don’t do this while you are in the middle of an argument, this will only make the situation worse.
I understand that this may be a bit too obvious, but many people have forgotten about how important it is to talk about things as a couple. Make sure that your partner understands that there is nothing personal about your decision, it is just more comfortable for you this way. Ask your partner to try to understand you. Maybe if one person in a partnership doesn’t like this idea, you can try to find a compromise, for example, sleep separately a few times a week.
What do you think about this way of sleeping? Share your opinion in the comment section below.