He snores. You toss and turn. Sleeping together is supposed to maintain intimacy in a marriage, but it has its downsides. A host of studies indicates that lovebirds often opt for separate beds, if not separate bedrooms. The Science Times cites a University of Toronto survey indicating that up to 40 percent of married couples sleep apart. However, the same article quotes Neil Stanley, a sleep specialist from the United Kingdom, as saying that this drops to about 8 percent among couples in their 40s and 50s.
People sleep more soundly alone than they do when they bed down with a partner. Sleeping together can prevent you from falling into the deeper sleep cycles if you stir and partially rouse each time your spouse rolls over or shifts his weight. Men tend to snore more as they get older, so there's the noise factor, as well. Insomnia is common among older adults. The older you get, the more difficult you might find it to fall asleep, or to stay asleep after you initially fall asleep. If your partner wakes you repeatedly throughout the night, it might mean that you're staring at the ceiling for hours.
Health on NBCNews.com reports that men are not only happier sleeping with their spouses, but they are also more able to sleep well with a significant beside them. This isn't so for women. One theory is that women are pre-programmed to wake at the sound of a baby crying in the night. Even if the baby has long since left diapers, that may carry over to sleeping with one ear cocked, waiting for the sounds of Junior to come safely home. If women sleep more lightly to begin with, they might be more inclined to react to noises and movements from their spouses.
Effect on Marriage
So what happens to your marital relationship if you and your spouse decide to separate at night? Dr. Judith Orloff points out the obvious – when you're well rested, you're less likely to be cranky and irritable. If your hot button is your spouse leaving dirty dishes all over the kitchen, you might be more willing to just drop them in the dishwasher if you slept well last night. If you laid awake, gritting your teeth, your reaction might be to throw the dishes at him. Orloff notes in an article on her website that it's often easier for mature couples to acknowledge these benefits of sleeping apart without panicking that such a sleeping arrangement might ruin the relationship or thinking that there is something fundamentally wrong with it. The important thing is that you maintain intimate and affectionate contact at other times. There's no rule that says sex and touching can only happen after lights out when you share the same bed.
One Size Doesn't Fit All
If you and your spouse are having a hard time sleeping together, identify exactly what it is that's keeping you awake. If it's the noise from hubs' snoring that keeps you from sleeping, you may need separate bedrooms. If your spouse is a nocturnal thrasher, separate beds might do the trick and help preserve your marriage for a long time to come. Depending on the extent of the thrashing or tossing, you can even push twin beds together – you can still reach out and touch, watch television side by side, or do anything else that suits you, without being dislodged every time your spouse rolls over.
Beverly Bird is a professional writer who is also a practicing paralegal in the areas of divorce and family law. She has offered community workshops for single parents, helping them with the financial and lifestyle issues they often face.
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