Thank goodness my house doesn’t have an extra bedroom. If it did, I know that on many nights my husband and I would sleep in different rooms. Not because we don’t love each other, but because sometimes it would be easier.
More and more married couples are sleeping in separate beds. The reasons may vary, but for some it’s simply a desperate attempt to get a little shut-eye. What are the costs of this decision? Before you throw in the towel and retreat to your own room, consider the benefits of cozying up to your spouse every night.
In his book Two in a Bed, University of Minnesota family social science professor, Dr. Paul Rosenblatt, discusses both the challenges and benefits of sharing a bed.
- Pillow Talk – For many couples, those minutes before nodding off are the most they’ll have together in a single day, says Rosenblatt. It gives them a chance to talk about the days events, share feelings and concerns, and solve problems together. Take away that pre-sleep chat and some couples would hardly converse for days at a time.
- Intimacy – According to his research with couples, the shared bed is crucial to the health of the relationship. Beyond the chance to talk, the physical closeness it promotes is a great source of comfort for many. The cuddling, spooning and warmth of being close to another are soothing in ways we may not even recognize. It increases feelings of intimacy with your spouse, and for women it enhances a sense of physical safety and security. Obviously, physical closeness increases the opportunity for sexual interaction.
- But I’m tired! So what is a couple to do when all these benefits don’t include a full eight hours of deep, restful, sleep? It may involve discussion, modifications to the sleep environment and compromise. If one spouse loves to spoon but the other can’t rest well that way, spend a little while cuddled up when you first go to bed, but then give the restless partner some space. If one is a bedtime TV watcher and the other needs silence, agree upon a reasonable time at which the TV will be switched off. Ditto for covers, thermostats and other variables.
If and when to allow children into the bed is another area of concern for some couples. While some parents intentionally choose co-sleeping with an infant or child, others are worn down into it by a child who refuses to sleep in his or her own bed. Psychologists and researchers are split on the benefits and consequences of the family bed, but it’s undeniable that it changes the intimacy of the bedroom for parents.
Have an honest discussion with your spouse about how to handle this problem, and develop a strategy for transitioning the children into their own beds over time. Making the master bedroom a kid-free zone not only enhances the possibility of quality sleep, it creates an environment where couples can interact as husband and wife—free from the interruptions and demands of little ones. Your spouse needs your undivided attention on occasion just as much as the children do.
For couples, sleep challenges are more than just health issues—they are relationship issues. Approaching solutions with that in mind can help you meet your mutual needs for rest without sacrificing the marital benefits of time under the covers.
by Dr. Paul Rosenblatt