When Not to Sleep with Your Husband
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When Not to Sleep with Your Husband

When sleep deprivation causes stress and health problems, it could be time to try separate beds.

The marriage bed is a powerful symbol of wedded bliss. But humans are the only species where sleep and sex are actually linked, points out Neil Stanley, PhD, chairman of the British Sleep Society. "For animals," he says, "these are two different events."

More couples than we realize are sleeping in separate beds: 12 percent of married adults, according to a 2001 National Sleep Foundation (NSF) poll. And in most cases it's just to get a good night's rest. He snores; you're a light sleeper. You want the heat up; he has to have the windows open. "There's no reason why men and women would have the same sleep habits," says Paul A. Selecky, MD, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, in Newport Beach, California. "When husbands and wives share a bed, it's surprising that they get any sleep at all."

Wide-Awake Wives

But it's women who are sacrificing more shut-eye and suffering more stress because of their mates' sleeping habits. More than 40 percent of men snore a few nights a week, compared with just 31 percent of women, but women are more likely to suffer from insomnia, according to a 2002 NSF poll. And nearly 30 percent of women responding to a 2004 Harris survey of 1,361 adults said they slept less and more poorly because of their bedmates' snoring, tossing and turning, and blanket and mattress hogging, compared with 17 percent of men.

Spousal Sleep Solutions

Before considering separate rooms, try pushing twin beds together, which should make your husband's movements less disruptive, advises Clete A. Kushida, MD, director of the Center for Human Sleep Research at Stanford University, in Palo Alto, California. If that doesn't work, try sleeping together every other night.

"We can all handle one night of poor sleep, but after two or three, we're in trouble," says Sheila Goss, a Burbank, California-based marriage and family therapist. Or begin the night in the same bed, then separate and reunite for a morning cuddle. There is no wrong sleeping arrangement as long as a couple maintains intimacy, even if it has to be scheduled.

"A 'you come to my bed Tuesday and Thursday, and I come to yours Monday and Wednesday' system can heighten expectations and fun," says Goss. One mother of three in Beverly Hills, California, who has slept apart from her husband for 25 years agrees.

"With separate rooms, you get to make dates," she says. "It's way more romantic."


Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal magazine, October 2004.