Local sleep specialist shares tips for navigating a “sleep divorce”.
How many nights do you spend on the couch because your spouse is snoring or tossing and turning? Are you a night owl who watches television into the wee hours while your early bird spouse tries to get some shut-eye? Like so many couples, you may be considering what has become known as a “sleep divorce.” A recent study from sleep industry research firm Sleepopolis revealed that one-third of American couples sleep in separate beds or rooms because of differences in their sleep patterns or disruptive sleep habits. Here, Dr. Nancy Collop, director of the Emory Sleep Center, shares her thoughts about separate sleeping arrangements and how couples can navigate the decision if sleep health is a concern.
How do you know if your spouse or partner is disturbing your sleep?
If you wake up and don’t feel rested or if you are so tired during the afternoon that you need to take a nap, then you’re probably not getting the right kind of sleep. Experts say that we need about seven hours of sleep per night. But there are different levels of sleep. A sleep partner might not wake you up fully, but their snoring or restlessness might take you out of a deeper sleep into a lighter one. So it’s still a disruption.
How can this disruption affect your overall health?
If you have chronic sleep deprivation, then it can have an effect on your immune system. Your mood can be impacted, and you might feel impaired when you’re trying to do repetitive tasks. There’s even some epidemiologic evidence that suggests not getting enough sleep can lead to an increased risk for cancer or heart disease.
How should couples approach a possible sleep divorce?
You, of course, want to be able to sleep in bed next to your partner and not give up that intimacy. But for a significant part of the night, you’re both asleep. It’s important to do what’s best for both of you as far as your sleep and health. So it’s a discussion you should have as a couple. And you can do it on a trial basis and see how it works.
Can the person who moves to a different sleep space just go to the guest room?
That’s probably not the most ideal option. If you’re going to try a sleep separation, which sounds less brutal than a sleep divorce, then you want your sleep space to be as comfortable as the one you were in before. You need a good, comfortable bed and a cool, quiet, dark environment.
Do you have to move into separate rooms to have a successful sleep separation?
If you have a big enough bedroom, you may be able to have separate beds. That could make enough of a difference if the main issue is restlessness or movement.
How can couples adjust to sleeping apart if they never have before?
So many people are used to having that body next to them, so it may take a while to get used to sleeping apart. But sleep is very important to your health, so you have to do what is best. If you feel like it’s an issue that can be addressed, then you might want to have it checked out at a sleep clinic. There’s a lot that can be done to help with sleep disorders and allow you to remain in the room with your sleep partner.
EMORY SLEEP CENTER
15 Minutes With columnist at Simply Buckhead. Freelance feature writer, children’s book author and President of Green Meadows Communications, LLC.