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Is your relationship problem sleeping next to you?

I was recently asked to contribute to an article for the New York Times about whether or not spouses should sleep in the same bed. Sleeping next to each other can enhance your marriage; however, how many sleepless nights should you suffer through before talking to your partner about changing your sleep style at night?

Suggesting a sleep divorce may seem drastic but so is sleep deprivation. Body heat, snoring, body odor, restless leg syndrome, or simply needing space are reasons why some couples are finding joy in no longer sharing the same bed. In a recent survey posted on a mattress review site, more than 40 percent of responders said they would prefer to sleep alone but didn’t know how to bring up the conversation without starting conflict. They were concerned about feeling guilty or less in love with their partner. However, if you aren’t getting sleep, you will begin to feel irritable, disoriented, and fatigued during the day and this won’t benefit your marriage or your attitude toward your partner.

Working with clients, it’s not a matter of whether or not you sleep together but how you share intimacy. Below are pros to each style. Talking with your partner about which style works for the two of you is the best thing you can do to enhance your marriage.

Pros to sleeping together.

  • Convenience. One bedroom, one bed, and you’re together. You can use that 8 hours for romance, reading together, sharing ideas together, or sleeping.

  • Physically healthy. Sleep hormones are being released, and there is research supporting that sleeping with someone and having skin to skin touch releases oxytocin which helps you feel less moody and more secure.

  • Security and unity. Sleeping together reinforces bonding and enhances your emotional and physical connection.

  • Emotional and physical connection. For couples who are away from each other throughout the day, spending eight hours together at night helps them feel more connected.

Pros to sleeping in separate beds.

  • More privacy. If you have a sleep style you don’t enjoy sharing with another or you worry that it’s offensive to your partner then sleeping alone is more ideal.

  • You can decorate your room or bed the way you want. Some people don’t like their partner’s style of décor, and they relish having their own room that is decorated and designed the way they like. This is especially true for couples who have lived alone for some time.

  • You can sleep with your pet. Some partners are very attached to their pets. If they marry someone who doesn’t want pets in bed with them a separate bed or room, this is an option.

  • Work/sleep styles. If your partner is working the early morning shift and you don’t go to work until noon, sleeping in separate beds can be ideal.

How to talk to your partner about trying a sleep divorce.

  1. Begin the conversation by telling your partner you love them, and you think you will love them more if you sleep better at night.

  2. Tell them your sleep experience and what you think is the problem. Don’t blame them – explain you have a different sleep style. Then ask them for feedback on how they feel.

  3. Bring up the topic of a change or try something new that may help. A sleep number bed, a shower before bed, or a CPAP machine for partners who snore or suffer from sleep apnea might me more ideal that separate beds.

  4. Above all, make sure your partner understands you love them, and you love your relationship. In fact, it’s your love for your relationship that is motivating you to try something new.

Marriage remains exciting because growth and change is inevitable. Being willing to negotiate different styles to help each partner feel good about their quality of life is important. Not sleeping together doesn’t mean your marriage won’t be intimate anymore. Take advantage of touching each other during the day; hug or snuggle when you’re watching TV and keep dating each other. If you’re partner opts to sleep alone, you’re not losing a partner, you’re gaining another bed to cuddle on.


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