Are Separate Beds Always a Bad Thing?

separate-bedsFifty years ago, the mere insinuation of marital sex was so scandalous that television producers put sitcom couples in separate beds, occasionally even in separate bedrooms. Whether they’re aware of it or not, most people know at least one couple who lay their heads in separate beds or bedrooms. One 2005 survey found that as many as a quarter of married couples sleep in separate rooms. In part because separate bedrooms are associated with a more prudish era and with older couples who may be less physically intimate, many people view the arrangement as the death knell of younger marriages, but separate bedrooms don’t have to mean anything—except, perhaps, that both parties get a good night’s sleep.

Culture and Sleep

The prevailing cultural belief is that it’s normal and natural for married couples to sleep in the same bedroom. This trend, however, is a relatively new one. Prior to the 19th century, separate bedrooms were a status symbol indicating couples could afford two master bedrooms. Cultures around the world have a variety of sleeping arrangements; in some places, married couples never share a bed.

Why Separate Bedrooms?

In a culture that places a strong emphasis on marital intimacy, separate bedrooms might seem unhealthy for a relationship. People give many reasons for moving to separate bedrooms, though, and some of them have little to do with the relationship itself. Different sleep habits can play a role; when one partner is a night owl and the other needs to get up early, sleeping in the same bedroom can be exhausting. Snoring and other nighttime habits can also drive couples into separate bedrooms. Disagreements about how to sleep—whether to allow children or pets to be present, for example—can also be a factor. And in some marriages, couples simply don’t want to sleep together, need space at night, or sleep separately because they’re no longer interested in physical intimacy.

Benefits

Couples who sleep apart can gain some surprising benefits. One 2012 study found that couples reported less happiness in their marriage when they were sleep deprived. If one partner snores or otherwise interferes with sleep, or if the couple sleeps better separately, separate bedrooms can improve a marriage. Separate bedrooms can also add to the excitement of sex; being in the same bed may feel novel, and may even involve some sneaking around if there are children in the house. For couples who fight about their sleep philosophies, moving to separate bedrooms can mark the beginning of peace.

Risks

Sleeping in separate bedrooms can be the solution to petty marital squabbles, but in some cases it can spell catastrophe. You’ll have to work harder to maintain intimacy in your marriage, and if you’re not sure about separate bedrooms or one partner objects, one partner could end up feeling lonely and abandoned. If you’re struggling in your marriage and considering separate bedrooms, the separation could contribute to the distance rather than help you bridge it.

References:

  1. Breus, M. (2013, May 02). Have you considered a ‘sleep divorce’? The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-michael-j-breus/sleep-relationships_b_3155778.html
  2. Fairfax, G. (n.d.). Should couples sleep in separate beds? Divine Caroline. Retrieved from http://www.divinecaroline.com/love-sex/should-couples-sleep-separate-beds
  3. Lott, T. (2013, June 07). Are separate beds the key to a good night’s sleep? The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/jun/08/separate-beds-key-good-sleep
  4. Power, M. (2012, November 4). Sleep your way to the top: No, not like that! The key to success is getting loads of kip. Mail Online. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2227820/Sleep-way-No-like-The-key-success-getting-loads-kip.html

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  • NANA J

    NANA J

    July 25th, 2013 at 11:05 AM

    My husband snores so loud and so bad that ultimately this was the only solution for us! I was either going to get no sleep or kill him so I decided that the best solution was for us to have separate beds.
    Oh he hated the idea, said that he would stop, yadayadayada but it never did, so One weekend I just up and switched the study to a bedroom for me.
    I love it. I have my own little sanctuary and since we were never having problems with the sex part of the marriage, this made me more well rested and not so aggravated with him so I actually wanted to have sex more often!
    I have friends who called me crazy but it has worked for us better than anything imaginable. If you do this right it doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

  • Cecily

    Cecily

    July 26th, 2013 at 4:14 AM

    Nana J it sounds like you and your husband are doing this for the right reasons, and it is working for you and I am happy to hear it. But you know that there will be other couples who will sleep alone just to punish the other partner for whatever reason, and there is something about not being in the ebd together that could start to drive a wedge between the two of you. I strongly advocate for couples trying to resolve their issues, whatever they may be, so that they can lie together at night. I think that this is a wonderful time to be alose to one another and there is an intimacy to sleeping together that is very hard to replace with anything else. Occasionally I can roll with it, but I guess that for me personally this would not be the choice that I would wish to make.

  • Stan

    Stan

    July 29th, 2013 at 10:52 AM

    There just has to be a better way!
    I am afraid that if I lost my wife to another bedroom I might never get her back.
    I don’t think that I would miss the jabs in the middle of the night telling me to be quiet but I do think that I would miss her sleeping beside me.

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