Ford’s new bed design has pressure sensors in the mattress to monitor when your partner has invaded your bed space and a built-in conveyor belt gives them a gentle nudge back to their own side. The product is thought to be a gimmick to promote their ‘lane-assist’ feature in their cars, but it begs the question: who really has a peaceful night’s sleep when there’s someone next to you? Research from the Better Sleep Council suggests that on average, one in three people report their bed partner has a negative impact on their sleep, while another UK survey showed couples tend to have bedroom squabbles around 167 times a year (the number one reason was blanket hogging, while snoring was a close second).
So, should we all be sleeping in separate beds – or even take a leaf out of Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton’s book with separate houses? Historically, the marital bed was for romantic endeavours rather than just sleep – for the Romans and the Victorians, sharing a bed for snoozing was seen as unhealthy. But these days, only a small amount of people fancy sleeping alone – a YouGov poll from 2018 of 2000 UK couples found 15% of couples would sleep separately if money and space were not a problem. While it’s thought sleeping with a loved one can reduce stress (and even protect us from heart disease), a study into sleeping apart, found couples suffer 50% more sleep disturbances sleeping together.
From a relationship standpoint, though, is it ok to be sleeping apart, or is it a slippery slope? Relationship expert and love coach Kate Mansfield, thinks it can be healthy – to a certain extent: “I think that sleeping apart sometimes and having space from each other is an essential aspect of being in a healthy relationship. [However], sleeping apart but living together on a continual basis is, in my opinion, a sign that things are not working well. It’s certainly not great for intimacy and feeling close.”
Rachael Lloyd, relationship expert at eharmony, concurs, adding that you really need to think about the reason why you want to sleep apart: “If it’s because you are avoiding physical or emotional intimacy in your relationship, then this needs to be addressed as a couple. But if it’s because you both need to feel refreshed, then I wouldn’t worry that it’s symbolic of something more serious.”
For those who do choose to sleep separately – for whatever amount of time – the key thing is to keep the same level of intimacy as if you’re sleeping in the same bed. “Make sure to create time and space for each other to be sexual and intimate,” Kate advises. “Go away together for romantic weekends to make sure you are not growing apart and creating too much distance.”
But as Rachael points out, intimacy does go beyond simply sleeping next to one another: “It’s about physical and emotional closeness and interaction. You can still go to bed together, watch Netflix or read next to each other, but retreat to different beds just before you drop off. Then you can meet up again for cuddles the next morning.”
If all of this sounds appealing and you fancy trying a few nights alone for your own wellbeing, then it’s understandable that it’s not the easiest thing to bring up with a loved one. So how can you suggest sleeping separately without offending them? Rachael says framing is key. “Talk calmly, explain your point and the reasons why you want to sleep alone,” she advises. “If handled skilfully it could actually inject a bit of romance into your lives as you’ll savour moments spent in the same bed together more. As long as sleeping apart is not indicative of a bigger issue in the relationship – it’s a reasonable request. What’s unreasonable is battling insomnia because of someone’s snoring. If sleeping apart means you are both more rested and refreshed, then that’s going to help enhance intimacy far more than tolerating each other’s nocturnal stress cycles!”