Could a ‘Sleep Divorce’ Actually Help Your Relationship?
Your bedtime partner can make a big difference in your sleep. Tossing and turning, snoring, being a hot or cold sleeper, or having alternate schedules can all impact the quality of your (and their) slumber.
It’s no wonder annoyances and hard feelings can develop between romantic partners if their sleeping styles aren’t compatible. After all, who wants to get woken up by wayward kicks, snores that sound like an airplane is soaring overhead, or stolen blankets?
And so, some couples are choosing a “sleep divorce,” a term that refers to a romantic couple choosing to sleep in separate rooms. Cameron Diaz recently spoke about how this arrangement works well for her and husband Benji Madden. And a growing number of people are doing it in their own homes and talking about it. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that more than one-third of people say they sleep in a different room from their partner at least occasionally.
A survey from The Better Sleep Council says that one-quarter of adults say they sleep better alone. “It does sound counterintuitive to sleep separately, but a good night of sleep is important,” says Julie Kolzet, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and behavioral sleep medicine specialist in New York City. “Sometimes patients believe that they should be sleeping with their partners. Part of my job is dispelling the myths around sleep, including these types of ‘should’ statements,” says Kozlet.
For many couples, a sleep divorce is a perfect compromise, says Rachel Zar, Ph.D., a Chicago-based sex and relationship therapist. Despite the negative connotation of the term, “for many couples, a ‘sleep divorce’ helps them show up better to the relationship, as opposed to taking away from the relationship,” she says.
This isn’t the case, of course, in situations where couples are sleeping apart following an argument, says Zar. “Some of the reasons for a sleep divorce are relationship-based. In this instance, sleeping apart is not the issue itself, but it’s the symptom of a bigger problem,” she says.
A tip from Hatch: If you do start sleeping in separate bedrooms from your partner, start to create a personalized sleep environment that works best for you to maximize the “sleep divorce” arrangement. For example, create personalized wind-down and wake-up routines using your Hatch device and the Hatch+ premium content suite.
First, you’ll want to get on the same page with your partner on why you might sleep apart. Miscommunication can cause the arrangement to go south. If your reasoning behind it is because of conflict or problems in your relationship, talking to your partner and considering additional help, such as relationship counseling, may be worthwhile.
If you are both confident that this is chiefly for better sleep, then you can reiterate your commitment to the relationship, talk about why you want to sleep apart, and whether you see this as a temporary or permanent solution. Come up with a plan on how you two will come together to connect at the end of the day.
“For busy couples, those with kids, or who have opposite schedules, that touch point before bed is the only time they may really be together and connecting,” says Zar. For a successful and happy sleep divorce, make sure you identify a time during the evening (or day!) that you can spend quality time with each other. One person might climb into bed with the other to chat or come in in the morning to cuddle. They could both sit and have lunch together or perhaps elect to sleep separately throughout the workweek but choose to sleep together on the weekends.
Finally, choosing to sleep separately may not be your only option. “There are often other ways to go about addressing sleep problems that don’t involve one partner leaving the room,” says Kozlet. If your goal is to sleep together, then seeing a sleep behavioral specialist who is versed in CBT-I (cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia) can also help give you tools to improve your sleep, such as limiting your time in bed, getting up and doing something quiet if you can’t fall asleep, or practicing good sleep hygiene habits.
No matter what sleep solution you choose, know that there is a large spectrum of sleep arrangements in healthy relationships. Your best night’s sleep might not be in bed with your partner. And that’s okay!