It’s been a full year since my husband and I last shared a bed for sleeping.
There’s nothing wrong with our marriage. We have the normal squabbles and occasional bigger fights, but we have a loving, stable relationship. We’re perfectly happy.
In fact, we may be even happier since we started sleeping in separate rooms.
I’ve always been an anxious sleeper. I wake frequently to use the bathroom at night. It used to take me a very long time to fall asleep. I always stressed out about not getting a full eight hours of sleep and even during high school, went to bed at 10 PM every night.
When my husband and I first started seriously dating, I remember breathing a sigh of relief that he wasn’t a snorer. Since middle school, I’ve needed to sleep with eye shades and ear plugs to block out light and sound, but I felt lucky that despite still needing those sleep aids, we adjusted pretty well to sharing a bed.
Everything was fine—sleep-wise—even after we got two crazy cats and had our first daughter.
I had been so nervous about newborn sleep patterns, but I was gifted with a magical unicorn baby who slept long stretches from day one and by 4 months was sleeping 12 hours a night and taking 3 naps.
It wasn’t until I had my second daughter that sleep became more difficult.
While she ended up sleeping through the night by five months, she woke more often at night as a newborn because she had tongue-tie, which affected how well she nursed. She would wake frequently screaming but unable to eat because she didn’t know how to breastfeed correctly and since we had no idea what was happening, we were up for hours, frustrated and exhausted.
In the midst of all this, my husband started snoring. Even ear plugs didn’t block out the noise.
I was completely run down. I had no idea what was going on with my baby, had a young toddler as well and was running on very little sleep. I thought once the baby was moved into her own room and we got through the tongue-tie revision and the four month sleep regression that everything would be fine again.
It used to be that I would turn the lights off at 10:30 and my husband would stay awake, playing on his phone for a while. Suddenly, he was going to bed when I did and starting to snore immediately. Or if he stayed up, I was so distracted by his fidgeting that I couldn’t fall asleep.
Frequently, I found myself lying in bed, my entire body tense, just waiting for the snores to start.
He bought a throat spray that dulled the snores. That worked for a while. But he didn’t want to sleep with strips on his nose, so we didn’t have many other options to try when the spray stopped working.
Finally, I gave up. I needed rest. I couldn’t go to bed every night feeling stressed out and anxious. I couldn’t wake up every morning feeling anger and resentment towards him for my lack of sleep. It wasn’t healthy for our relationship.
Around Christmas last year, I told him that I was going to start sleeping in the guest room. We always go upstairs together and read or talk in “his bed”, but when it’s time for the lights to go out, I go into the guest room.
I can’t believe how much better I sleep. My husband likes to joke that we have a broken marriage (I promise, he’s joking), but I call this the marriage fixer.
Now I can turn out the light and fall asleep right away, while he can stay up doing whatever he wants to do with the lights on. I don’t feel nervous about disturbing him if I wake up a lot during the night. Both of us have plenty of room to stretch out and make ourselves comfortable in bed. We’re not pulling the covers off of one another or fighting for space.
This is the best I’ve slept in years. Turns out, we’re onto something.
Apparently one in four American couples prefer to sleep alone as well. In a Glamour Magazine article on the topic of health and sleeping alone, two doctors were quoted: “It’s rare that you find two people with the same sleeping habits, and so sharing a bed can be a difficult and potentially sleep-depriving process,’ Dr. Guy Meadows, co-founder of The Sleep School, told The Daily Mail.
Silentnight sleep expert, Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan agreed, “For many people, it’s clear that sleeping in separate rooms might make for a better, more restful sleep.”
Along with both of us sleeping better, I find that we’re squabbling less. There’s always stress, but now that we’re both well rested, we’re less quick to jump down each other’s throats over the littlest things.
Do I worry about missing important bonding time? Sometimes I miss reaching across the bed and holding his hand or him wrapping an arm around me for a snuggle in the early morning. But it just means we have to make more of an effort to cuddle before sleep. Wendy Troxel, a clinical psychologist and behavioral scientist wrote “the moments leading up to actual sleep were some of the most important for bonding.”
My husband is going for a sleep evaluation and hopefully a sleep study in a few weeks. I’m curious to see what the results are, but even if we figure out the cause of the snoring and night terrors and find a way to fix those issues, I don’t know if we’ll share a bed overnight again.
We both truly feel that sleeping separately has made us happier and a stronger couple.