It’s been a long day at work. You’ve given yourself a few hours to unwind before you set your alarm and get ready to drift off into “la la land.” You brush your teeth, wash your face and finish all of your nightly routines before walking into your “husband’s bedroom” to say good night.
Once upon a time, sleeping in separate beds or rooms was a clear sign that your relationship was on the rocks. But now, studies suggest that one in four married couples hit the sack in separate bedrooms.
One survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation in 2001 found that 12 percent of married Americans were sleeping alone; by 2005 it had grown to 23 percent.
Dr. Robert Kearl , with the Arizona Pulmonary Specialists and Director of Comprehensive Sleep Solutions, says while he understands the concept of “me time” and is an advocate of getting a good night's sleep, he does not condone the behavior.
“It’s not really a relationship builder,” he says.
Dr. Kearl has been practicing sleep medicine for the last 20 years and says many of his clients have admitted to sleeping in rooms separate from their spouse.
“There are dozens of reasons someone might feel the need to sleep somewhere else,” he says. “If your partner is snoring, has restless leg syndrome or just tosses and turns all night, you are probably left lying there awake. But what’s scary is if he/she suffers from sleep apnea and there is an emergency, like they stop breathing and you’re not there to revive them.”
Carla and Craig Kimball have been married for nearly two decades. A little over one year ago they say they made the “practical decision” to sleep apart.
“It just got to the point where I would wake up every time he changed positions, we were fighting over space and neither of us was getting a full night's rest,” Carla says.
After being married for so long Carla admits that sleeping alone took some getting used to, but says after a few weeks not only was she “waking up refreshed and ready to tackle the day,” but she says the bond between she and her husband became stronger.
“We just started to like each other more,” she says. “We weren't together every second of every day and then when we did get to see each other it was extra special. It was like we were dating again.”
Dr. Kearl says 11 percent of sleepers twitch throughout the night and 40 percent of males in their 40s snore. If you add in buzzing Blackberrys, opposite work schedules and other sleep habits like teeth grinding and night terrors, plenty of people say they understand why couples have decided to stop suffering through the effects of sleep deprivation, but could never bring themselves to do the same.
“I would never, ever think about sleeping anywhere other than right next to my husband,” Julie Pranto says. “Yes he snores and I talk in my sleep, but those are some of the things we love about each other. Plus, I’m just not really sure how you are supposed to be intimate if you are sleeping in separate places.”
Dating expert Lea Haben agrees that sleeping in separate beds can definitely make it more difficult when the mood strikes.
“Engaging in playful sexual romps in the laundry room, backyard, hallway and staircase are great ways to keep your relationship alive and saucy,” she says. "Occasionally shaking things up is a better scenario than separate bedrooms. The key is not to make [sex] routine.”
Dr. Keral says while living in a “24/7 day a week culture” everyone, sleeping in the same bed or not, needs to learn how to shut out all the chaos in their lives before shutting off the lights.
“Turn off the cell phone, avoid bright lights [like from a television] and try to relax before hopping into bed,” he says. “If you are still having trouble sleeping, get evaluated. Sleeping in a separate area than your significant other isn’t a goal our society should strive for.”
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