Do partners still sleep in the same bed and why?
October 7, 2008 3:14 PM   Subscribe

Sleeping together.... no I mean SLEEPING together ... is it still common among partners living together? I always found I got much better sleep alone in my own bed but when partners sleep in separate beds, others seem to think something is wrong with the relationship. What's the common practice/s around the world?
posted by zaebiz to Human Relations (61 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
but when partners sleep in separate beds, others seem to think something is wrong with the relationship.

How many other people are sleeping in your bedroom? And if it's just you and your partner, why are you discussing where you sleep with other people?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:21 PM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Well, I don't sleep with my partner because he snores and we have different sleep patterns but people seem to think I'm crazy. I'm in Australia and married 17 years.
posted by b33j at 3:21 PM on October 7, 2008

Every couple I know who doesn't sleep together does so because of the physical condition of one partner. In one example, the guy has problems with his shoulders and tosses and turns. In another, the man has prostate issues that necessitate going to the bathroom at all hours.

I'm in the US.
posted by desjardins at 3:23 PM on October 7, 2008

Mr. Allstar and I sleep together - though I must admit that I do sleep better alone.
posted by at 3:24 PM on October 7, 2008

I just read in The Week that 23% of USian married couples sleep separately.

That said, while I occasionally head for the couch, for the most part I couldn't imagine not sleeping next to my wife.
posted by Netzapper at 3:26 PM on October 7, 2008

Also, I know a couple where the woman prefers to go to bed early, and the man frequently falls asleep in front of the TV until morning.

I don't see sleeping together as a necessary indicator of the health of the relationship, but personally I'll put up with a night of bad sleep in order to wake up next to my husband. However, it depends on a lot of factors, such as whether one of us has to get up early for some important event. The other big factor is there's no other good spot to sleep; if you fall asleep on the couch you'll inevitably end up sharing it with a cat or two and then awakened whenever they feel like eating.
posted by desjardins at 3:27 PM on October 7, 2008

Robert Parker, the author of the Spenser novels, and his wife Joan, have slept in bedrooms on *separate floors* of their three-story-walkup in Cambridge, for almost 20 years, I think.

I am designing a house (that I will never be able to afford to build unless I win the lottery ;-) for me and the love that will have 2 complete master bedrooms, though it will share a pretty sizable master bath.

Makes it slightly less cumbersome to have guests in, you see. :-)
posted by baylink at 3:32 PM on October 7, 2008

mr medusa & I sleep together and both enjoy that very much despite mutual toss-n-turn action and his snoring. that said, it's your relationship and if you are both happy with the situation I don't think you need to worry what others think.

5 years married, USian
posted by supermedusa at 3:34 PM on October 7, 2008

My fiancée says she sleeps a little better alone, probably because I roll about a bit, but I know I fall asleep faster when we're together. We both enjoy the being together though and deal.

Now, her dad and his second wife have separate bedrooms because he snores really loud. As in rattling change on the bedside table loud.
posted by Nelsormensch at 3:39 PM on October 7, 2008

Frankly, I have a much harder time falling asleep when the Spousal Unit and I are separated. I need 15 minutes of close proximity before we adjourn to our own sides of the mattress or I struggle to fall asleep.

We both think separate sleeping arrangements are odd behavior for a couple.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.
posted by trinity8-director at 3:41 PM on October 7, 2008 [3 favorites]

I've never been able to sleep
next to someone. If they're touching
me, I'll be awake all night.
It's happened.

Basically, I have an air
mattress that I blow up when
I have my girlfriend over.

I make it up real nice, with
lotsa sheets and a generous
comforter. She understands.

Look, we love each other to death.
And some things are small things.

You have to discuss with your partner
how important it is for them to actually
sleep next to you.
posted by Sully at 3:43 PM on October 7, 2008 [5 favorites]

Hum. Mr. Betty and I seem to be in the minority in going out of our way to sleep together... if one of us falls asleep on the couch, that person is woken up and invited to bed when it's that time. While I enjoy taking up the entire bed after he's up and gone to work in the mornings, I really like being able to cuddle while we're sleeping.
posted by alpha_betty at 3:46 PM on October 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

my husband used to snore really loudly. turns out he has sleep apnea. once he got treatment for that (cpap machine), there's no more snoring and we sleep much better. it might be something to have checked if snoring is what's keeping you or your partner from sleeping well.
posted by beandip at 3:49 PM on October 7, 2008

There's a recent, really interesting book about how and why people sleep together:

Two In a Bed: The Social System of Couple Bed-sharing, by Paul C. Rosenblatt.
posted by pised at 3:49 PM on October 7, 2008

I sleep better not-alone. USian.
posted by rokusan at 3:56 PM on October 7, 2008

I like a lot of elbow room, in and out of bed. Sometimes, I feel crowded by my partner, and when he leaves, earlier in the morning than I do, I take great pleasure in languishing in the great big ol' bed.

But when he's gone? I sleep poorly, if I sleep at all. I just can't sleep without a man in the house. I need him next to me. Sappy, but true.

It's like taking a shower. You *could* take one every day, alone, but sometimes it's so much better with two, you know?

Married twenty years next June (whoa...). And we're in the U.S.
posted by misha at 3:59 PM on October 7, 2008

My husband and I sleep together every night now, but back when we were just living in sin, I made it a condition on moving in that I have my own room. Maybe 3 or so nights a week, we would sleep separately. And it was sooooo nice. Enough room to stretch out, my sheets all cool and crisp on the other side of the bed, the ability to keep my reading light on as long as I wanted.

Now it would be hard to imagine sleeping separately, just because we've fallen into a different pattern, but I do miss it sometimes.

We'd always snuggle for a little while in one room or the other, which was really nice. I think we appreciated each other's presence a little bit more, because we didn't take that shared time for granted. And I have to say, there's something kind of fun about "sneaking" into the other person's room, even if it is your own house.

And, yes, people would always be like "Wait, you sleep separately?" But once we explained it, I think their original impulse to judge us was always warring with a bit of jealousy. Heh.
posted by missjenny at 4:00 PM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

My boyfriend and I are crazy about each other. We also tend to sleep in separate beds. (American, togther 3.5 years, living together for a year.)

It's a practical matter, not an emotional one -- we have pretty different work schedules and sleep patterns, plus we're both "sprawlers," so a queen size bed isn't big enough for us to both be comfortable all night (our bedroom's too small for a king size). He's also a snorer, and I have joint pain that often keeps me tossing and turning.

Sure, I'd prefer it if we could sleep together peacefully every night, but it's not really in the cards for us for now. We're a lot happier and less stressed out when we both get a decent night's sleep, which we've decided is more important for our relationship than hanging on to some cultural assumption that "togetherness" is supposed to equal one bed instead of two.
posted by scody at 4:00 PM on October 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

Every couple I know, married or not, sleeps together, including me and my wife. I would say it is more common than not, certainly in Western society. However, it's really up to you, you know? Just close your bedroom door(s) when there are guests around and your sleeping arrangements will remain your business, as it should be.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:04 PM on October 7, 2008

miagaille and I (married 2 years) can barely sleep at all apart. We go to sleep spooned, we wake up in the morning still spooned.
posted by dmd at 4:07 PM on October 7, 2008

She sleeps better when I am there. Of course, this is on a 25 acre side of a mountain in Tuscany with snakes, scorpions and boar. (IT)
posted by Zambrano at 4:08 PM on October 7, 2008

On average, (straight) men sleep better when they share the bed with a female partner; women sleep worse than they do alone, partly due to the snoring, possibly also due to differences in the brain. It's not uncommon for partners to fall asleep together, and one to be woken in the night and need to seek the spare bed.

In the end of the day, it's what works for your relationship that's important, not what anyone else thinks. A good night's sleep vs waking up in your partners arms is a personal decision in the end.

That said, many sleep disorders are fixable. Whether it's an inadequate mattress (much more common than you'd think) too small a bed, draughts, or medically treatable snoring/apnea most people put up with something that could be fixed relatively easily.
posted by ArkhanJG at 4:10 PM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm firmly in the sleeping together camp. But I have relatives (several, in fact) who have been married for decades and attribute their long and happy marriages to their separate bedrooms. So it's not like sleeping apart automatically means you aren't going to stay together.

But that said, I can't see how separate bedrooms would be helpful to one's sex life (excepting the sneaking of a lover in and out of the window, of course). Scheduled sex is great, but cosleeping leads to snuggling which leads to arousal which leads to good stuff, and those spontaneous events can't happen when the other person is down the hall. Pheromones don't work through walls, you know.

The people I know who are open about their separate sleeping arrangements all use health issues as the excuse — and it's definitely something that they feel they need to excuse (and sometimes hide) because of the social expectation of cohabitation equaling cosleeping. So all you have to do is say "oh, he snores" or "my back hurts" and people will get off your case about it (as if it were there business in the first place, not that that stops anyone from commenting). It's definitely not for me, but if it works for you, why would you change?
posted by Forktine at 4:11 PM on October 7, 2008

but when partners sleep in separate beds, others seem to think something is wrong with the relationship.

That's their problem, not yours. If it works for you guys, go for it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:15 PM on October 7, 2008

My parents now sleep apart, my dad's a snorer. My mother's a saint—When I stay at their house, even on a different floor, my father's snoring often keeps me up. I would have killed him with a tack hammer by now, were I forced to sleep in the same room as him every night.

As for sleeping together/apart, I acclimate. Like, for the first few nights sleeping apart bothers me and I can't stop thrashing about. After that, it takes me a couple nights of waking up at every movement when we start sleeping together again.
posted by klangklangston at 4:20 PM on October 7, 2008

I sleep better with my partner in my bed, except when his insomnia is bad. Then, he has a habit of restlessly scratching his head until the bed shakes. Honestly, though, I sleep best with a doggy or a kitty curled up beside me. Animals really know how to co-sleep.

I wouldn't judge partners that don't sleep next to each other, although I do wonder about the logistics of...uh..."date nights", I guess.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:28 PM on October 7, 2008

This is not a contemporary datapoint, but my grandparents (London, married ca. WWII) slept in separate single beds in the same room. It never occurred to me that it was odd, even though my parents slept in one bed, together. And I was startled to discover that most of my (American) peers in college assumed that the two-beds set-up on tv shows from the 50s and 60s was a paean to censors/propriety, rather than an accurate representation of real homes (I don't know which is the case). Either way, I seem to recall that there's scholarship on this question of when couples sleeping in the same bed became the norm, and why... And if you google it, there's certainly plenty of fluff reporting!

When I was living with my partner, we slept in the same bed (still do, when we visit) unless there was some practical reason not to (staying up excessively late, other guests). And I agree with the person upthread who noted that the sleeping-together experience was hugely improved by the treatment of (his) sleep apnea.
posted by obliquicity at 4:32 PM on October 7, 2008

I sleep better alone, so I insist on doing so. Here in the US I don't think this is common practice, but me, I like my sleep. I mean, really, really like it.
posted by chez shoes at 4:33 PM on October 7, 2008

But that said, I can't see how separate bedrooms would be helpful to one's sex life

Heh, we manage fine. We get into bed together on weeknights and there's plenty of snuggling that, yes, often leads to... good stuff. Then I drift off and if he's still awake, which he usually is, he tiptoes out and stays up as late as he wants. On the weekends (he works till 4:00 a.m. Friday and Saturday night), I go to sleep alone and then climb into bed with him when I wake up in the morning. Voila! Snuggling ensues. (And this may be stating the obvious, but there are plenty of other times to have sex, spontaneously or not, besides those moments when both parties are already in bed.)
posted by scody at 4:43 PM on October 7, 2008

My great aunt and uncle have been sleeping in separate beds in separate rooms for over 40 years, and they're one of the happiest couples I've ever met. She used to work second shift, he used to work an early first, so they had totally different sleep patterns. But it worked for them.
posted by deezil at 4:55 PM on October 7, 2008

Been married 7 years and we absolutely sleep apart, and I am much happier that way. I am not to keen sharing a bed with someone, especially if they're touching me (except my cuddly pug, even though she snores). Various reasons I guess but mostly preference. I have a beautiful bedroom upstairs with a mattress and gorgeous comforter I picked out for myself, though we tell visitors it's the "guest" room.

I went on a tour of a historic house in Atlanta built in the 1920s:

Swan House

and I remember them pointing out how their was a Mrs. bedroom and a Mr. Bedroom - I thought it was a great idea and wonder why that is so uncommon now.

Regarding a PP, my grandparents (in the U.S., their parents from Germany) also slept in separate single beds.
posted by texas_blissful at 4:56 PM on October 7, 2008

There are perfectly good reasons for not sleeping together, like others have mentioned. I'll admit that sometimes when I hear that a couple sleeps separately I wonder if they have relationship problems, but I remind myself that everyone is different.
posted by Nattie at 5:00 PM on October 7, 2008

Anitanita boyfriend and I often sleep - I mean sleep - apart. No relationship troubles. We just need to buy a bigger bed. Finally realized there was no point in sleeping together ALL THE TIME if we would just wake up cranky. More fights caused from sleep deprived crankiness than sleeping apart, I say.
posted by anitanita at 5:34 PM on October 7, 2008

By the way, in the US together 4 years. Began sleeping apart after year 2.
posted by anitanita at 5:36 PM on October 7, 2008

The norm in New Zealand would be together.
posted by rodgerd at 6:22 PM on October 7, 2008

I have pretty irrational insomnia. If my husband falls asleep before I do and I'm having a bad night with regard to being able to sleep, period, I become completely and irrationally convinced that I am keeping him awake, or that I will wake him up, every time I turn over or try to find a more comfortable position. Since he's already asleep, it's easier for both of us if I migrate to the futon. When I'm under a lot of stress, I sometimes just give up and sleep on the couch as a first resort. This doesn't mean there is something wrong with my marriage - it means I love him so much that I can't deal with the idea of depriving him of sleep (even though ironically of the two of us, I need way more sleep to function).
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:32 PM on October 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

My boyfriend/partner/whatever and I have been together for almost 5 years and have lived together for about 2 1/2 years. We had separate bedrooms the first year we lived together, had one master bedroom, but still slept separately often the next year, and this year we only have one bedroom, so we always sleep together. It depended on what the layout of our apartments were, and also our schedules, etc. It's never been a problem not sleeping together. I know couples who do and don't sleep in the same bed regularly, and the health of their relationships doesn't seen correlated to their sleeping habits. There was an article about this on recently.
posted by fructose at 6:37 PM on October 7, 2008

Data points from America.

1) My parents slept in separate rooms, mostly because my father could literally rattle the windows with his snoring.

2) Until I got a big memory foam mattress (which isolates movement really well) my preference was for separate but adjacent beds. Literally two single beds pushed up against each other. This both isolates tossing/turning/resistless leg/etc motions and lets both people have seprate temperature control, but be right next to each other for all the good reasons.

Now I have the giant memory foam which I can share without too much motion trouble, but I usually do different bedding on each half so there's no blanket fighting or temperature complaints.

Most people are busy sleeping when they are sleeping, so I don't consider it a relationship problem. Now if they're having sex in separate rooms...
posted by Ookseer at 8:11 PM on October 7, 2008

But that said, I can't see how separate bedrooms would be helpful to one's sex life...

I don't think we have sex in the bed more than one in ten times, despite sleeping together 97% of the time.

Beds are for sleeping and reading.
posted by Netzapper at 8:13 PM on October 7, 2008

I've found that I SLEEP better alone.
posted by docmccoy at 8:24 PM on October 7, 2008

Together for 14 years, lived together for about ten, married for three...

We used to sleep together every night (despite his awful snoring). When our son was born (he's 27 months old) he co-slept with us until he got big enough stand up and fall out of the side-car style cosleeper we were using, at which time we moved him into his own room.

Since he (my son) has had his own room, I end up cosleeping with him (my son) in his room maybe 4 nights out of seven. Sometimes I fall asleep while putting him to bed and my husband doesn't have the heart to wake me to move me (I've slept in there in my clothes more than once). Sometimes my son wakes in the middle of the night and when I get to him he asks me to "nuggle" him back to sleep, so I sleep in his room from about 3 or 4 am until we get up at 645 am.

Oh, and some nights I'll go to bed and my husband will stay up watching TV and fall asleep downstairs.

Officially, we don't sleep apart. As a practical matter, we sleep the entire night together in the same bed probably two nights a week.
posted by anastasiav at 8:41 PM on October 7, 2008

I like sleeping with others, but I'll admit, I tend to get a better night's sleep when I have the queen size bed all to myself.

Also to repeat others: there are so many other times and places to have sex—don't limit yourself! *grin*
posted by darkshade at 8:45 PM on October 7, 2008

I read a study once that said although most people sleep worse with their partners (observations show that they wake up more, etc), they report that they slept better.
posted by salvia at 9:20 PM on October 7, 2008

But that said, I can't see how separate bedrooms would be helpful to one's sex life

If given a chance to rewrite this, I would say this much more gently and carefully. I meant simply that separate bedrooms isn't likely to lead to more sex just because of proximity and convenience, but it sure sounded like I was saying that separate bedrooms equates to a bad sex life, nyaa nyaa nyaa. And I certainly didn't mean that, at all.

Honestly, I think it's easy to let what you think other people are thinking interfere with what will work the best for you in private. So one bed, two beds, partially or fully separated bedrooms, separate houses, it's all good. If it works for you and makes you happy, then you have succeeded. Most people won't notice or care, and the few who do can be easily fended off with vague "health-related" excuses.
posted by Forktine at 9:35 PM on October 7, 2008

Together for 13 years, always sleep together. However, I would say that getting a much larger bed (Cal King) is the best of both worlds. Snuggle together in the middle of the bed, roll over and sleep soundly without being kicked/snored at/elbowed etc. Oh, and we are both UK citizens living in the US. Together seems "normal" for both UK and US as far as I can tell. But who cares what's normal? Go with what works for you!
posted by Joh at 10:01 PM on October 7, 2008

My husband and I almost always sleep together in a double (full) bed. And then sometimes the baby and the cat are there, too. Occasionally one of us will decamp to the spare bed if we can't sleep but otherwise we're together. Even when I was in the hospital both before and after giving birth, my husband was able to slot himself into the hospital bed with me. We both preferred that to him sleeping on the couch in the room.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:29 PM on October 7, 2008

Oh, and we're in the US (California).
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:29 PM on October 7, 2008

Among Orthodox Jews it's standard practice for married couples to have two beds because of Niddah (menstrual purity) laws, which forbid a married couple from touching each other for at least 12 days out of every menstrual cycle. Sometimes people have two twin beds that they push together or pull apart as appropriate, but I've also seen one larger bed + a twin bed.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:10 AM on October 8, 2008

My wife and I sleep in the same bed, but I could go either way to be honest. If anything, sleeping apart would benefit her, as I tend to roll around a lot in my sleep and my snoring is legendary (though of course I've never really heard it myself).

I remember backpacking around Thailand, and once I took the overnight train from Bangkok to Chaing Mai. I was alone and was fine sleeping in the small fold-out bunk on the train, but across the aisle a young French couple sqeezed themselves into a single bunk spooning-style, and promptly fell asleep. I always recall that image, how it looks almost claustrophobic to me, to be in such a enclosed space in that hot train. I guess it's just what you're comfortable with.
posted by zardoz at 12:26 AM on October 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Flashdrake and I have been together for 18 years and sleeping seperately all that time. When we are travelling, we opt for two beds, and enjoy sleeping in the same room, however the romance of that tires when I start to snore! (It isn't always the men).

For the most part, our seperate rooms are on different levels as well - although I must admit that I enjoy having the tactile comfort of an affectinate Burmese cat lying alongside me at night.

I have no qualms in people knowing (I'm 44), however my husband is embarrassed and doesn't like people knowing.

We are in Australia.
posted by Flashduck at 2:26 AM on October 8, 2008

Just read this article. Seems like sleeping apart and having seperate bedrooms are becoming more common in the US.
posted by karyotypical at 3:38 AM on October 8, 2008

Not only do we sleep together, we don't migrate to separate sides of the bed -- we often wake up still spooning. Been together 6 yrs, US.
posted by desuetude at 6:38 AM on October 8, 2008

I sleep with my SO, and think it has a lot to do with having our having a close, strong relationship.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:08 AM on October 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

My husband and I sleep apart. I am a very very light sleeper, and I can't fall asleep if there's any noise or movement at all. He has major knee joint problems (of the chronic pain, needs surgery variety) that make him extremely twitchy when he sleeps. I got to the point where I dreaded going to bed at the same time as him, because I worried that I wouldn't be able to get to sleep, and then because I was so anxious, I really couldn't get to sleep; it was a crappy self-perpetuating cycle. Dreading going to bed with your partner is not a happy feeling, so I think we're much better off now that we don't share a bed. We always go into one of our rooms before bedtime and cuddle or chat for a little while, so I don't feel that we completely lose that intimacy.

That said, we both have hopes that post-surgery we'll be able to give sharing a bed another try. If that still doesn't work, we may have to try the two beds in the same room approach ( do you deal with the crack in the middle?).

We live in the U.S. and are celebrating our 5th anniversary next friday, for what that's worth. We've never felt particularly odd about not sharing. My parents know, because we have to explain why we don't have room for a spare bedroom when they come visit, but otherwise, there's no need to talk about it.
posted by ashirys at 8:11 AM on October 8, 2008

I've been with my SO for 5 years and we have talked about this to death. I would prefer to sleep apart for a few reasons (I'm a trasher, He snores, we have wildly different sleep patterns/schedules) We don't because he regards sleeping apart as downright perverse and makes concessions so we share the bed. I'm US, he's UK.
posted by The Whelk at 12:29 PM on October 8, 2008

There was a New York Times article about this recently.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 1:13 PM on October 8, 2008

The wifey and I have slept together for most of 10 years. When I broke my collarbone last year, we slept in separate rooms for about 6 months. It took about 2 weeks to get used to sleeping alone again, but after that I *loved* it. My bedroom became *my* bedroom; a special, quiet, dark space I looked forward to sleeping in.

After that, it was hard sleeping together again, so we bought a huge king-sized bed. With that it's almost like sleeping alone, because we never feel each other in the massive bed.

On a related note - in an effort to keep the passion going in our marriage, we recently created some new rules of engagement. Things like: avoid being totally naked in front of each other whenever possible (keep it special); buy separate shampoos, deoderant, and toothpaste (so we each have our "own smells"); (for her) wear sexy, matching pajamas 2-3 times a week (vs. the usual frumpy blah t-shirt pajamas), etc. And, though we're not doing it yet, we are planning on moving back into separate bedrooms at some point. For us, it's fun, and reminds us of dating, and being our own persons, etc. It has all had a very positive effect on our relationship and intimacy.
posted by blahtsk at 5:52 PM on October 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

My wife snores, likes the room warmer. and brings up everything that is bothering her right when I'm drifting off. So I sleep downstairs on the nights before I have anything serious to do the next day, and sleep upstairs on weekends and 1-2 times during the week.
posted by mecran01 at 9:54 AM on October 15, 2008

Husband and I prefer to sleep together. However, due to recent changes in my medication, and possibly recent changes in his snoring, if we sleep in the same bed, I ... don't. I've always been an ultralight sleeper; now I'm also a fragile sleeper (as in, I can't get back to sleep after waking easily). So, we snuggle for 10-15mins in the evening, go to separate beds, and in the morning, snuggle for about an hour when someone's alarm goes off.

He's going to be seeing a doctor soon about the snoring. Because we're both the cuddly type, and we miss being able to roll over and hug in the middle of the night.

It'd be nice if the guest bed was a queen instead of a king single, though.
posted by ysabet at 5:46 PM on October 15, 2008

My wife and I sleep in the same bed but at rather different times - often not overlapping. It doesn't disturb me much if she comes to bed after me, and she rarely wakes when I come to bed after her.

We're in the UK - and sleeping in separate beds as a youngish couple nowadays would be considered very odd. It is known amongst the much older generations though.
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