It’s generally accepted that partners who live together also sleep together. While snuggle time might be good for our relationships, the benefits to our health are open to debate.
Known as sleep divorce, moving into separate beds or rooms from our loved ones isn’t exactly unusual. According to the Sleep Foundation’s 2023 survey of 1,250 adults in the US, 1.4 percent of respondents have slept separate from partners for a year or more.
More importantly, just over half (52.9 percent) said slumbering in isolation had improved their sleep quality.
On the other hand, 25.7 percent of respondents who had experimented with sleeping separately had gone back to sharing a bed with their partner again, which in turn boosted sleep times.
For just over a third of couples, they gave up their sleep divorce because they missed each other. Aw.
According to a 2023 New York Times survey of 2,200 US adults, one in five couples now sleep in separate bedrooms at least some of the time. It may not be the norm, but it seems to be something more people are willing to try.
Perhaps sleep divorce is too harsh a term. There’s no animosity or parting of ways here: according to the NYT article, couples who experimented with it did so for a variety of reasons, including a conflict in schedules, a need for personal space, late-night doom scrolling, and (as you would expect) snoring.
One individual the Sleep Foundation spoke to was 43-year-old Regina Cross from Missouri. Regina originally started sleeping separately from her husband when she was pregnant, but the couple kept the arrangement after the baby was born.
“We realized that we both sleep better apart, and we have done that for more than nine years now,” says Regina.
“When we sleep, we’re in different rooms, but we also maintain a pretty active intimate life.”
A 2020 study of 12 healthy heterosexual couples found that when couples slept together, they got 10 percent more Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep; the deepest and most refreshing type, helping us fix memories in our brain and regulate our emotions.
Then there was a 2022 study involving 1,000 participants, which found that sharing a bed with your partner meant more sleep at night, less fatigue the next day, and falling asleep in a shorter amount of time. Another win for sleeping together.
What we do know for sure is that good quality sleep – on a regular schedule, without interruption – is crucial to our physical and mental health. When we start to go without it, it hurts our productivity, makes it harder for us to concentrate, and can increase the long-term risk of disease.
So when it comes to sleep divorce, do whatever works best for you, your partner, and your relationship. It’s clearly working for some people and not for others, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer – just as with sleep itself.