There’s a growing trend among couples choosing to sleep in separate beds. In 2001, a National Sleep Foundation survey found that 12% of married Americans slept apart; by 2005, that number had jumped to 23%. If this pattern continues, will husbands and wives start introducing each other as “roommates” instead of “spouses”? Are separate bedrooms good for a marriage? It depends on whom you ask and the reasons why.
For some wives, sleeping separately from their husbands is a matter of survival. They’re married to men who jerk and kick in their sleep and a black eye is not a price they’re willing to pay just to be close to their spouse. For other couples, sleeping in separate beds results from different schedules: he’s a night owl, she’s early to bed and early to rise, and neither wants to disturb the other. Maybe he snores, so loudly that she can’t get more than a few hours of sleep. These couples have found a solution to their sleep conundrum by retiring at night to different beds, separate quarters.
But, according to relationship experts like Dr. Willard Harley and Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil, couples sleeping separately can ultimately lead to couples growing apart. Harley says: “Whenever I see a couple wanting private time—they want to be alone, they want their own friends, they don’t want to feel like they’re joined at the hip—my immediate question is, ‘What is it about being together that bothers you?’” Eaker says: “Sleeping in separate bedrooms is a symptom of couples giving up on intimacy…” And while that may not be true of many couples who choose to sleep apart, it is true that the time we spend in bed with our mate is intimate and not just on a sexual level. The house is quiet, the kids are asleep, the computers, phones, and television are off. It’s just the two of you, given an opportunity to connect on a deeper level. Maybe you talk about work or the kids or more: frustrations, hopes, fears, dreams. You might even laugh about something stupid that occurred during the day. You could talk about the weather and it will still mean more simply because you’re next to each other, under the covers, whispering in the dark.
“His snoring is so loud!” the wife complains, but according to Dr. David Schnarch, a Colorado sex therapist, snoring as an excuse to sleep separately is just that – an excuse. "The truth is…having a good reason to sleep separately -- like snoring -- allows them to ignore what they don't want to pay attention to…It may not be a sexual issue per se -- but the couple has become so emotionally alienated that snoring is the ticket out."
By the time a couple seeks counseling, they’re often found guilty of conflict avoidance. They aren’t comfortable arguing with their partner or spouse, or speaking up when there’s an issue in the relationship. Instead, there’s a slow, quiet ‘growing apart’ that often starts in the bedroom. On the flip side of all of this, however, are couples who choose to sleep separately for legitimate reasons mentioned above -- different body temperatures, snoring that literally shakes the house, sleep apnea, early wake times – and end up growing apart by accident. From psychotherapist Tina B. Tessina: "Sleeping apart…just makes it easier to avoid each other, when what's really needed is connection and contact. There are solutions to snoring and restlessness -- a memory foam mattress will stop restlessness from being felt by a partner and snoring can be helped in a number of ways."
For most couples, a healthy relationship involves sleeping in the same bed, preferably at the same time. Opportunities for intimacy tend to lessen over the course of a marriage, so the bedroom is often an oasis in the cacophony that is sometimes life. It’s worth addressing, even if you just buy a new set of sheets, change up the lighting, or commit to hitting the sack together.
For more information, check out these additional resources:
From LiveStrong.com, Do Separate Bedrooms Save or Destroy a Marriage? Weigh in!
From Shine.Yahoo.com, More Couples Sleeping Apart: Is This Healthy?
From CNN.com, We’re Married, Sleeping Separately
From DivineCaroline.com, Should Couples Sleep in Separate Beds?
Do you sleep separately?