The health and relationship benefits of a sleep divorce

There are plenty of good reasons why a married couple, or two committed partners, may choose to sleep separately.

But the term ‘sleep divorce’ gives it a bad taste, says psychologist Susan Albers. She calls it a ‘sleep separation’ or ‘alternative sleep arrangement.’

One in every five couples chooses to sleep in separate beds, even in separate rooms. And they have a healthier and more loving relationship because of it.

Could you and your partner benefit from a sleep divorce? Here’s what you need to know to help you decide.

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What is a sleep divorce and why you might need one

Why would people in a happy relationship choose to sleep separately?

In the end, it comes down to having incompatible sleep habits:

  • Maybe you and your partner need different environments to get a good night’s sleep. One of you might need a room that’s pitch black, silent, and cool, while the other might require exactly the opposite.
  • One of you might spend the night tossing and turning due to restless leg syndrome or insomnia.
  • One of you might use a noisy CPAP machine for sleep apnea.
  • One partner might work the night shift.

Regardless of the reason, sleeping separately might be a way to guard your sleep time.

Getting a good night’s sleep is incredibly important to your health. Over time, poor sleep can harden arteries.

Sleep loss is also linked to breast, bowel, and prostate cancer. In fact, the World Health Organization has classified any type of night-shift work as a probable carcinogen.

And lastly, bad sleep and a bad attitude add up to bad aging.

The benefits of a sleep divorce

As I’ve implied above, sleeping separately could improve your prospects for better health. But there are benefits that could improve your relationship, too.

  • You get your personal space. Maybe you can go back to reading in bed, listening to “your” music, or just spreading out a little bit. These can be incredibly beneficial for your mood and mental health, which can only benefit your partnership.
  • You have fewer things to fight about. Crumbs in the bed, the volume of music, or lights in your eyes… the next time you and your partner argue, these are not on the roster of things to complain about.
  • Your relationship is more intentional. When you’re not sharing a bed, then snuggling and sex become an affirmative choice that you and your partner make. It doesn’t just “happen.”

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The downside of sleeping separately

Sleeping separately isn’t for everyone, says Dr. Albers. Here are some of the possible drawbacks.

  • It may decrease intimacy. “Sleeping in separate rooms may create some emotional distance or disconnection,” Dr. Albers acknowledges. “There’s something about being in a bedroom at night — a privacy that leads to talking with your significant other in a way that you don’t when you’re outside of that space.”
  • It may hurt your sex life. If you aren’t intentional about intimacy at other times, sleeping separately can diminish desire when you do have sex.
  • It may be expensive. Not everyone has a separate room or a separate bed for separate sleeping. Purchasing a second bed can be pricey.
  • It may be lonely. Once you’ve made the move to separate rooms, you may find that you miss having someone there every night, even with the things that annoy you.
  • It may foster resentment. Both people need to be comfortable with the arrangement. You both need to be good communicators and willing to sort out concerns as they arise. Otherwise, the situation just becomes another source of resentment and arguing.

How to give separate sleeping a try

Here are two strategies you and your partner can try to increase the odds that a separate sleeping arrangement will be successful for you and your partner.

Weekend sleep-ins together. During the week, when work and responsibilities loom large, having separate sleeping spaces can be a blessing. But why not let weekends be a “mini-reunion” where you reconnect, cherish the intimacy of sharing a bed, and get to talk and reinforce your bond.

Prioritize pre-sleep rituals. Just because you’re not sleeping in the same bed doesn’t mean you can’t share your pre-sleep rituals.

Rituals before going to bed signal your brain that it’s time to sleep. They’re an essential step to a good night’s sleep. Shared rituals might be as simple as playing a board game, practicing a meditation routine or just talking over your day.

The idea of a ‘sleep divorce,’ when approached with mutual care and respect, can add to your relationship, rather than diminish it. It’s not about sleeping apart. Rather, it’s about sleeping well so you are each the best version of yourself.

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And if you need a little help sleeping better, separately or not, consider these recommendations from the Center for Human Sleep Science at UC Berkeley:

Vitamin D is important to maintaining your body’s sleep cycle. It is available from food (fatty fish like salmon and sardines, eggs, and dairy products) or through a supplement. Vitamin D helps the body produce the sleep hormone, melatonin.

Exposure to sunlight. Morning sunlight helps reset your body’s sleep clock and increases the likelihood of a good night’s sleep. Conversely, exposure to artificial light, especially blue light that emits from smartphones and other devices, in the evening can disrupt your body clock making it harder to fall asleep.

Get moving! Even a brief and easy walk each day will have a positive effect on your sleep. Get your exercise earlier in the day so your body has a chance to calm down for sleep.

Watch those bedtime snacks! Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods 4-6 hours before bed. Try a light bedtime snack like warm milk or a banana.

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A ‘Sleep Divorce’ Might Be Exactly What Your Relationship Needs — Cleveland Clinic

2 ‘Sleep Divorce’ Strategies That Bring Couples Closer, According To A Psychologist — Forbes

Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.