Sleeping apart may be good for relationships

LOVE and marriage means sharing a bed, right?

Wrong, according to Jennifer Adams, author of Sleeping Apart, No Falling Apart.

A dedicated separate sleeper herself, who has been married for nine years, she decided to write a book about the bedroom struggle after she realised the topic was taboo.

"Sharing a bed every night is a practice that is being challenged more and more by savvy, modern couples who want a great night's sleep," she says.

"These couples have stumbled on the secret that not only can they be healthier and happier but their relationship can be too."

A bed has many uses, she says.

"It's a place to read, throw your clothes, watch television, chat on the phone, kiss and cuddle, have sex, jump up and down, cry and feel sad.

"However creatively we may choose to use a bed though, there's no denying that its main use is for sleeping."

If you are part of a couple, heading to the bedroom each night to sleep may, or may not, fill you with a sense of calm and restfulness, says Jennifer.

A 2012 study by the Central Queensland University found a partner in your bed is more disruptive to sleep than any other noise.

In the study, 57.6 per cent of respondents indicated that they slept with a partner and, of these, 34.5 per cent said that their partner disturbed them while getting into bed.

Forty four per cent states that their partner disturbed them by tossing and turning and 58.5 per cent said that their partner's snoring disturbed their sleep.

More than 48 per cent said their partner disturbed them by getting up to go to the bathroom at night; 10.1 per cent reported that their sleep was disturbed by their partner getting up to go to the kitchen; 8.1 per cent were disturbed by their partner answering phone calls; and 35.9 per cent had been disturbed by a partner getting up to go to work.

"I don't deny that sharing a bed with another person provides a distinct level of intimacy to a relationship that's hard to replicate," says Jennifer.

"The rituals associated with sharing a space each night, getting ready of bed, spending time alone in the sanctity of a bedroom and lying next to someone are part of a relationship that some couples could not live without."

However, she says being in close physical contact with any person, in any setting, for an extended period of time inevitably creates issues.

"And while there are behaviours and habits our partners have that we can learn to live with, a 1999 Mayo Clinic study found that people don't automatically adjust to sleep disturbances."

What Jennifer hopes her book will do is open up conversation between couples about their sleep needs.

She also hopes it can help debunk the myth that sleeping separately is a sign a relationship is in trouble.

Jennifer adds that while many people think sleeping in different bedrooms will mean less sex, the opposite can often be the case.

A lack of snoring, bumping, or overheating, means more sleep and healthier desire.

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Sleeping apart

Before you make the decision about whether to sleep separately, Jennifer suggests:

  • Take some time to work out the relationship priorities for you and your partner
  • Don't underestimate or overestimate your emotional response
  • Plan how you will communicate with your partner about your issues around sleeping together
  • Clearly, factually and calmly explain why your partner's behaviour is disturbing your sleep
  • Be honest when considering the positives and negatives of changing your sleeping arrangements
  • Be able to describe to your partner exactly what the change to your sleeping arrangements is going to look like, what the change to your relationship is going to look like, and be open to their suggestions too
  • Get ready for the sex talk - be able to explain how you think sleeping separately might affect your sex life (don't forget to accentuate the potential positives)

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