Could A Sleep Divorce Save Your Relationship?

Maybe it's time to sleep away from your partner.
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Some of us see sleeping with a partner as an act of intimacy, however for others it can cause discomfort and have a negative effect on sleep. If the latter rings true, you might want to opt for a “sleep divorce”.

A sleep divorce is simply sleeping apart, in separate beds or bedrooms, so that both partners can get a good night’s rest.

“No one talks about sleep divorce and it is so common,” says relationship psychologist Mairead Molloy, from elite dating agency Berkeley International.

She’s right – a survey by the National Sleep Foundation in 2017 found that one in four married couples chose to sleep in separate rooms.

There are lots of reasons why a couple might choose to sleep separately. You might work different shifts, one of you might be a loud sleeper, or you might have children and co-sleep.

“If your partner snores, moves a lot or gets up in the middle of the night, you wake up, interrupting your rest,” says Molloy. “This takes a toll on you both physically and psychologically.”

While the name “sleep divorce” doesn’t exactly have the most positive connotations, it doesn’t have to be a negative experience.

“Sleeping in another room helps not only improve your comfort and rest but also to keep your personal space,” says Molloy.

Peter Saddington, a sex and relationship counsellor, previously told HuffPost UK he works with lots of couples who want to entertain the idea of sleeping separately but are worried about what it will mean for their marriage and sex life.

People get anxious about what it means, he said, because they worry it’s “a sign of the end days”.

But while some might worry that sleeping apart spells the end for intimacy, Molloy and Saddington believe the opposite is true.

“Sleeping in the same bed can become mundane,” said Saddington. “You see your partner not always necessarily looking their best – sweaty, disheveled – but if you’re just there for sex you can put more effort in and present yourself when you’re feeling at your best. For some people it can even heighten excitement.”

Molloy agrees a sleep divorce can give your sex life a boost. “Being separated at night favours the existence of an erotic space in which you miss the other person. Thus, it increases your desire to be together,” she suggests.

If you are tempted, it might be worth trialling it for a couple of months. That way, if it doesn’t work for you, you can go back to your previous arrangement.

But if you do see an improvement in how rested you feel, “keep going,” Saddington advised. “It is not always bad news to sleep separately.”

If you’re a very romantic person who’s horrified by the idea of spending the night alone, an intermediate solution could be sleeping in the same bed but with separate duvets or blankets, known as the Scandinavian sleep method, suggests Molloy.

“Overall, this is a good way to sleep together,” she says, “but still comfortable if your partner moves a lot and invades your space.”