Sleep Divorce Isn't Scary: How It's Helping Real Couples

People are opening up about sleep divorce and it’s empowering. Marriage doesn’t need to commit us to a lifetime of sleepless nights.

Published May 25, 2023
Young man looking unhappy while lying in bed with his sleeping wife

Sleep is one of the most underrated aspects of your health. It's beneficial we do what we can to get a good night's sleep so we can be at our best when we are awake. If you and your partner keep each other awake, either by needing the TV on or snoring or having completely opposite work schedules, you might want to consider a sleep divorce.

The word divorce here just means divorcing yourself from your sleeping arrangement. And couples are opening up about it like never before. Several celebrities have fessed up to giving it a try in their own relationships. But is it right for you? Maybe… maybe not!

What Exactly Is Sleep Divorce?

Sleep divorce is simply when couples start sleeping in separate locations. There's no denying that sleep divorce is getting some new publicity, with celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow talking about their experiences with it. But it doesn't mean that you don't love your partner, and it doesn't really have to do with the typical idea of divorce at all. It's simply a way that might work for some couples to get a better night's sleep.

Reasons Why You Might Try Sleeping in Separate Beds

There's still limited information about what the scientific positives and negatives are of partners sleeping separately. But, when you're on the third day of waking up to your partner kicking you in the spine, you might be ready to try just about anything to stay asleep for more than a few hours.

Here are a few reasons some people have turned to sleep separetely to save their sleep routine.

It Might Help Avoid Fights

If you've ever tried falling asleep to your partner's fog-horn style snores, then you know how cranky you can wake up in the morning. According to one study conducted in 2016, snoring (and the complex, gendered role ways we might approach handling it) can lead to higher stress in our relationships. A lack of sleep, plus the resentment you can feel over your sleep being disrupted by someone else, might create more conflict in your everyday life.

It Can Improve Your Mood

Similarly, sleep research conducted in 2009 proves that you're a better, happier partner when you've gotten enough rest. So, if you're struggling to sleep alongside your partner for whatever reason, moving locations might be a great option for your relationship.

You Might Get a Better Night's Rest

There's no concrete metric to measure a "good night's sleep," but you know it when you wake up from it. And it's proven that sleep impacts health. Things like snoring, temperature differences, moving or talking during sleep, and lots of other aspects can affect couples' quality of sleep.

Over 52.9% of the respondents to the OneCare Media's survey for the Sleep Foundation reported that sleep divorce improved their quality of sleep. Granted, only 1.4% of the 1,250 adults polled had tried out sleep divorce.

More Sleep Time for You Both

The 1.4% also reportedly got 37 more minutes of sleep a night. And when that alarm clock's coming bright and early, you know just how important getting in your zzz's can be.

On average, the CDC recommends adults get at least seven hours or sleep per night. So, if you're struggling to get that amount of quality sleep, sleeping separately from your partner might be something to consider.

Situations That Might Benefit from a Sleep Divorce

Sometimes it's not that couples have a problem sleeping in the same bed together, it's that certain situations just make it more challenging. If you've been dealing with one of these issues, sleeping separately might be a solution.

It Better Accommodates Different Work Schedules

With most modern households having two full-time earners, it's getting harder to match everyone's sleep schedule together. Inevitably, someone wakes up to a harsh alarm hours before they need to, with the clinking and clanging of their partner's routine ensuring they're not going back to sleep.

A sleep divorce might be a good way for people who work shifts and/or people who frequently travel to get their full night's rest without disturbing their partner or being disturbed. If you work six months on location and return home after six months, it's going to be a huge transition (for both of you) trying to go from sleeping alone to sleeping with your partner. Instead of forcing a break in routine and a few uncomfortable weeks ahead, you can stick to your independent sleep habits.

Maybe You Are Pregnant & Need More Space

Towards the end of your pregnancy, maneuvering around on two legs is hard enough, let alone twisting back and forth in your bed at night. You flopping around trying to get comfortable while also trying to be considerate of your partner's sleep can easily turn into a restless night for the both of you.

Carson Daly, previous VJ on MTV's TRL and current host of The Voice, publicly spoke about serving his own sleep-divorce papers in during his wife's fourth pregnancy. Just like for Daly and his wife, sleep divorce might be the sleep ticket you need in that final trimester.

Frequently Getting Out of Bed to Care for Little Ones

Couples with young kids, especially when one has a strict work schedule, might also try sleeping separately as a temporary solution when babies aren't ready to sleep through the night.

It Can Help Older Couples Get Extra ZZZs

Our bodies change as we age. Research on sleep and aging has shown that different factors, like a decrease in melatonin (our body's natural hormone that promotes sleep) and changes in the body's natural processes can contribute to sleep disruptions and sleep disorders as we get older. These sleep changes happens slowly over time, so by late middle age, you'll probably start seeing that you don't sleep as well or that you wake up more often throughout the night. This can be because you start to spend less time in deeper stages of sleep, that place where you really get that restorative juice from.

If you're older and struggling to fall asleep and stay asleep, your partner's own movements, snoring, etc. might be exacerbating it. In this case, sleeping separately can give you more control over your environment to ensure you're disturbed as little as possible so you get as much deep sleep as you can.

Things to Keep in Mind When Trying It Out

But, you shouldn't jump into something without considering all of the possibilities, first. After all, if this were a one-size-fits-all situation, then all of us would've transitioned to a sleep divorce by now. So, these are some things to keep in mind before sleeping in separate rooms or beds.

You Might Clock Fewer REM Hours

In a study published in 2020, sleeping beside someone was shown to have about a 10% increase in nightly REM sleep. REM sleep is much more than just the stage of sleep where you're most likely to dream. It's super important because it's the stage of sleep where your brain processes emotions and consolidates memory. Jeopardizing your REM sleep can negatively impact your everyday life.

You Might Have to Look for Other Ways to Increase Intimacy

Beyond sex, there's a real intimacy to sleeping alongside your partner. When you choose to sleep apart, you may forgo that built-in intimate time you have together. In a way, it becomes another thing you and your partner have to schedule.

If you and your partner don't have much of an opportunity to spend time together during the work week/during the day, then sharing a bed might be a time you connect, and that's something to think about.

Quick Tip

You don't necessarily lose the opportunity for close contact and intimacy when you don't sleep together, but you may have to look for ways to increase it throughout the day and evening to stay connected and to have the level of physical intimacy you both want.

It Doesn't Have to Be Forever

Humans love operating in extremes; we're either all in or all out. But transitioning to a sleep divorce doesn't have to be permanent. For all things, there is a season. Carson Daly and his wife have since transitioned into a more mild version of sleep divorce, where some nights they sleep together and others apart. Point is, there aren't any rules to trying out a sleep divorce, and you can try it one night a week or every night, and change that schedule up whenever you want to.

Make the Decision Together

You shouldn't rule a relationship with a "because I said so" kind of style, so sleep divorce can't only be something you want to try. If your partner's not on board (or they are and you're not), then you could just be adding stress to your relationship instead of trying to take some of it away.

Choosing to try sleep away from one another should be a decision that you come to together. And it's not one you have to commit to forever. You can also switch off and on, co-sleeping a few nights and sleeping separately on the others.

Questions to Help Start a Conversation About Sleeping Separately

If you're just now hearing about sleep divorce or are ready to take the plunge and want to get a feel for your partner's perspective, use these questions to help start the conversation.

  1. How well do you feel like you sleep every night?
  2. Have you ever thought about sleeping in separate beds?
  3. What do you think you need to have a great night's sleep?
  4. Is there anything I do that disrupts your sleep?
  5. What does your ideal sleep routine look like?
  6. How would you feel if I wanted to sleep in a different room?

Choose a Sleep Routine That Works for Both of You

Not everyone sleeps well beside their partner. If you or your partner aren't getting the best sleep together, then it might be worthwhile to talk about sleeping in separate beds or rooms. Remember - your relationship is your own, and there's no right or wrong in what works for you as a couple. And there's no shame in getting a good night's rest, no matter what that looks like when it comes to your sleeping arrangements.

Sleep Divorce Isn't Scary: How It's Helping Real Couples