Let me sleep on it
July 12, 2011 1:30 PM   Subscribe

I've gathered that people who share their bed with another person are able to get quality sleep. How is this task accomplished?

In the course of human affairs, intimate acquaintances have often shared beds. For some time now I have been working to incorporate this custom into my own life. Consistently, the strenuous practice of sleeping with the amorous solicitor in my life has forced me to sleep less, sleep poorly, and ultimately, to embark on a descent into the bowels of spiritual distemper, and also, madness.

When I sleep, I like to occupy a lot of space, and though my body is of modest size, I yearn to splay my limbs in the night. Also as I enter the land of dreams, I MUST roll around fiercely. My companion in bed has no annoying habits - she does not kick, snore, somniloquise, covet the blanket, or oblige me in any way to accommodate her girth, which is spare indeed. Nevertheless, her PRESENCE in the bed makes me self-conscious about my movement, makes me feel incapable of relaxing into an optimal position, incapable of shedding all inhibition of my limbs and of my mind, which can't help but dwell on how I might adjust my position without causing a huge disturbance in the bed. As I enter sleep, I do not feel that sweet ebb of all tumult and tension that is the gift of good sleep -- instead, I muddle my way through the night in shallow, intermittent naps. I feel equally unrefreshed whether I spend 9-10 hours or 6 or fewer in the bed.

I also have to add that while the bed is not opulently large, and does inhibit my movement a little, I suspect my problem may be psychological. In those cases when I've shared a very large bed, I've had the same issues, slightly less severe, but still ultimately leading to unsustainable sleep deprivation. We want to get another bed, but are holding off because I'm not sure it would actually solve my problem. When I sleep alone, I never have any kind of sleeping problems, and I can even greatly vary my sleeping/rising times with no ill effects. But after a few nights of sharing a bed, I begin to feel notably lethargic.

How, I cry to you, how must I cope with this vexing handicap? Must I resolve to become less self-conscious about "bothering" my bedmate (pretty sure trying to exert control over your level of self-consciousness is a paradox anyway)? Do I need to physically discipline my body into sleeping in positions that are more reasonable and practical for sharing a bed (is bodily discipline desirable, or even possible, in the one domain of life where we're hopefully completely relaxed and unburdened)? Is the only solution to get a bed of such decadent span that we might as well not even share it (pretty sure this isn't an option, for we are not kings of the earth)?

I know the path I walk is not untrod by others! Who among you hears my cry!!!
posted by geneva uswazi to Health & Fitness (36 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
You need not be kings of the earth to sleep in a king size bed. If you "MUST roll around fiercely as you enter the land of dreams" there really isn't another option, is there?
posted by reformedjerk at 1:38 PM on July 12, 2011

Not everyone can. Those who can't, shouldn't.
posted by Electrius at 1:38 PM on July 12, 2011 [6 favorites]

Uh, get a bigger bed.

There are some couples who sleep separately for this very reason. You may well be one-half of such a couple.

(And next time, just ask your question.)
posted by heathergirl at 1:40 PM on July 12, 2011 [45 favorites]

Restless Leg Syndrome is a real thing and medication has helped me not kick my partner in the nads while I'm sleeping. I'd investigate whether that's part of your problem.
posted by desjardins at 1:40 PM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Separate beds in the same room. I get good sleep, he gets to kick all he wants, and we get plenty of cuddles before and after bed. Win-win-win!
posted by yarly at 1:41 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

So I saw that a bigger bed helps but doesn't completely solve the problem. Let me suggest something that might be a good compromise: two beds shoved together.

I arrived at this solution by another route entirely (pregnancy / cosleeping with baby) but let me tell you, shoving a queen and twin together has led both Mr. Rabbit and myself to feel free to move about as we must, without bothering the other. Since you don't have a baby in your bed, you could probably do a twin/twin and get the same type of result with a less massive bed.

I only wish we'd discovered this solution, like, 15 years ago.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:43 PM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Go to a hotel with a king bed for a couple of nights and try it out.

Also/alternately, could your partner wait until you're asleep and then join you quietly? At least to get used to the idea?
posted by Etrigan at 1:43 PM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Do you go to bed at the same time? Perhaps you could try going to bed half an hour earlier, and then your partner could come to bed once you are already asleep?

I find a queen bed is the minimum I need to be able to sleep comfortably with another person in the bed - do you only have a queen or a double? If possible, try at least upgrading to a queen.

Try creating a blanket barrier in the middle of the bed, so that when you flail about, you touch the blanket instead of your partner. This might help with making you less self conscious, especially as you are trying to get to sleep
posted by unlaced at 1:43 PM on July 12, 2011

This answer is inspired by a mention on Deadwood: how about a bundling board? Okay, not that I know how to make one of these per se, and I'm not clear on how well this works with covers on or not, but it's a crackpot idea...

Or else, get twin/double beds that can be pushed together or apart.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:49 PM on July 12, 2011

...her PRESENCE in the bed makes me self-conscious about my movement... can't help but dwell on how I might adjust my position without causing a huge disturbance in the bed...

As one who has recently embarked on a similar quest, I find myself inclined to mark out this passage as the source of your woes. How can one attain a restful slumber while holding one's self rigid and immobile? Your paramour has not complained (or so it seems from your telling) of not being able to get adequate sleep herself. Why not allow yourself to relax, sleep normally, with all the shifting and adjusting that comes with it, and by the same measure allow her get used to the way you sleep as well?

Remind yourself that turning over a few times is ill like to disturb her. If she can get used to a warm body in bed beside her, which in itself is strange enough to the habitually solitary sleeper, she can get used to one that happens to move on occasion.
posted by segfault at 1:56 PM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

The first few weeks of sleeping with someone else in the bed is always rough for me. After that it is easy sailing. So I just tough it out until I adjust, although I recognize that not everyone can do this.

And if I go just a couple days sleeping on my own (like if I'm on a business trip), I have to readjust when I get home. The worst situation for me would be a partner that doesn't live with me, where we are only sharing a bed a few nights a week. I imagine I would never get used to that.
posted by muddgirl at 1:58 PM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm with unlaced: you should try a barrier. I found that very helpful psychologically when I shared the bed once with a relative.

Consider one of those body pillows if a blanket isn't to your liking.

Hopefully your amorous solicitor will not be offended at the proposition.

As you adjust to her presence, you can discard the barrier and pray that you don't start snoring instead and cause her disturbed sleep.
posted by Dragonness at 2:01 PM on July 12, 2011

Separate blankets is what I was going to recommend too. I'm very similar to you, and for some reason I'm way less self-conscious about pressing up against or scooching the other person if I'm not touching skin. No idea why.
posted by MsMolly at 2:05 PM on July 12, 2011 [6 favorites]

How long have you been sharing a bed with your partner? Do you do it every night, or only on weekends? How's the blanket situation; are you sharing, or do you each have your own? Is the bedroom temperature to your liking? Do you regularly smooch or spoon before going to sleep, or is it straight to sleep?

In the sweetly intimacious course of somnibalent affairs or whatever, this isn't a particularly rare problem, especially with a new partner. If you haven't slept in the same bed for very long, it may just be a matter of plain old getting used to it.

If your bed is smaller than a queen, upgrading is certain to help. Separate blankets can help, too.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:25 PM on July 12, 2011

Yep, Tempurpedic (and not being a pretentious twit) will fix you right up.
posted by nicwolff at 2:51 PM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh god. Just bought a king size bed for this very reason. (We were sharing a full. This, I recommend for no one.)

Also, getting a Simmons Beautyrest, whose claim to fame was that damn bowling ball commercial. By way of saying, you move and it doesn't make the whole bed move. Most mattresses have their springs connected to a common element. You want them independent so that you can move freely.

Also, a king is HUGE. You can splay out and not even touch the other person, most times.

Note: a "California King" is not bigger. It's longer, but less wide. (You add four inches in length, but lose them in width.) Since width is most important for splaying and such, you do NOT want a California King, even though it sounds bigger. In reality, it's just... long. Like California.
posted by disillusioned at 3:12 PM on July 12, 2011

(Unlike the poster above, I would not recommend a Simmons Beautyrest. Everyone raves about them, and I have no idea why. I spent way too much on one and got rid of it less than a year later because it had such a gutter in the middle that you'd literally have to hang onto the edge to not roll into the other person. Also, the other person absolutely feels your movements.)
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:24 PM on July 12, 2011

WHERETOWHITHER THERE BE try melatonin to help you sleep more soundly.
posted by foursentences at 3:33 PM on July 12, 2011

Memory foam. Generic or Tempurpedic.
posted by freshwater at 3:40 PM on July 12, 2011

You don't (I think) mention how long you and she have been together or how often you're sleeping together -- every night, once a week, etc.

I had the same problem with the beginning of every relationship I've had that got to the "we have to functionally sleep together". There's a "OH MY GOSH SOMEONE'S HERE!" and there's also just the sounds, motions and everything else of a new person in the bed that you're not used to. I slept like crap. Once we moved into together, it was an every night thing and I just got used to them, I slept fine.

In fact, I cannot sleep without my husband in the bed now. I put the dog where his head would be and form a pillow shape for his body that I can spoon. Crazy.

I just was exhausted, pushed through it and got used to it.

However, if you and the lady have been together for a long time, there's the barrier, the bigger bed, the French-style two duvets or even, and there's no shame in it, the two beds thing (although I found I could still hear the other person in a way that kept me from sleeping deeply on this one).
posted by Gucky at 3:40 PM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Nthing separate beds and separate bedding pushed together to look like one giant bed. I have restless leg syndrome, and this is the best solution we have come up with.
posted by 2ghouls at 3:55 PM on July 12, 2011

I am a terrible sleeper. We got a king size bed in December and got single duvets, so that we each have our own. It's like sleeping alone. I can't believe we didn't do it sooner!
posted by sadtomato at 3:57 PM on July 12, 2011

Time, a bigger bed, and separate blankets and top sheets.
posted by tristeza at 4:08 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Does she mind your movement? As others have said, the anxiety about bothering her is sure to make this worse. Anecdotally, I once dated someone who found it charming when I kicked him while I was falling asleep. He was a rare and wonderful bird indeed, but your lady may be, if not equally delighted, at least much less irked than you expect.
posted by dizziest at 4:53 PM on July 12, 2011

We've found the same promised effect of a Tempurpedic etc with an Ikea memory foam mattress for thousands of dollars less. I'm sure it has other failings, but memory foam + no internal springs = no bouncy bouncy while the other person is sleeping.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:58 PM on July 12, 2011

I've found that for me, the main problem is breathing in the same air as my co-sleeper (ick!), or being breathed-on by someone. Also, seeing sleeping people makes me nervous, for some reason (maybe because they look like they're dead?).
Consequently, I can only fall asleep if I turn around so that my feet are next to my husband's head. And of course, this also means you need separate blankets, which is a good idea anyway. I turn around when my husband is already asleep, and turn back in the morning for cuddling. He doesn't mind (it helps that my feet aren't smelly). Maybe this works for you as well.
posted by The Toad at 5:01 PM on July 12, 2011

i am so glad to see that other people use separate blankets. we do, and it makes me feel like a failure somehow (because you're "supposed" to sleep in the same small bed with the same blankets?).

anyway, separate sheets and blankets really helped us. we would LOVE to get a king size bed, but they're expensive and we can't fit one in our apartment. bah.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 5:28 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

My fiance and I used to fight all night over the blankets - now we have separate blankets and we both sleep much better. I would recommend this to anyone, and it helps you feel like you have your own space.

Also I like the above ideas of a "barrier" - body pillow, smushed up comforter, whatever.

Also I have slept on a tempurpedic bed and it definitely doesn't transfer movement. Personally I don't actually like the way they feel but I am in the minority.
posted by radioamy at 6:00 PM on July 12, 2011

the young rope-rider's answer is worth repeating:


(unless the bed is literally too small... then get a bigger bed first...)

I tend to move around a bit myself and I like to take up space. When I first started sharing a bed with the then future Mrs. Lobster I was also self conscious and uncomfortable for a while with regards to sleeping. It takes some time as a couple to tune into each other's habits and patterns. It's normal to be self conscious for a while. It'll go away. You'll get used to each other and adjust without even realizing it. Just relax and let it happen.

Also, moving around while asleep is not abnormal. No need to medicate unless something really out of the ordinary/unhealthy/dangerous is going on like jumping out of the window while asleep. Once, as a teenager, I slept on the floor between 2 makeshift beds where my brother and sister where sleeping. Despite the 2 feet of height separating me from them I managed to kick my sister in my sleep. She still claims I did it on purpose.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 6:50 PM on July 12, 2011

A small fan gently circulating the air can help with the stale air syndrome. Or a box fan pointed right at the bed. Whatever works.
posted by gjc at 6:59 PM on July 12, 2011

Two beds. Seriously, if that's what it takes for you to get any decent sleep at all, it's worth it.
posted by tomboko at 7:38 PM on July 12, 2011

Everyone who uses separate top sheets and blankets, let's all come out of the woodwork. It's seriously awesome, and it solves the whole "I am hot and he is cold" problem.
posted by muddgirl at 7:40 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Forsooth, my liege, acquire thee a king size bed. Memory foam if thou funds permit.

And prithee, address thy issues with intimacy-- your language screams "I don't like to talk to actual humans! Who breathe in the night!" as much as your sleeping problems do.
posted by kestrel251 at 8:25 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best post ever, thanks for making it fun. Count me as another vote for dual blankets/comforters. I sleep lightly, and half the time it's the movement of the blanket that wakes me, rather than bed shake or knocks.
posted by bluesky78987 at 10:42 PM on July 12, 2011

Memory Foam. King Size. On saturday I did a little sleep-over with my two best friends, we wanted to stay up late chatting about boys while we fell asleep so the three of us slept in one kind sized, tempurpedic bed. I was in the middle, I never felt any movement during the night. There was also a dog on the bed.

I have a mattress that is 4" of memory foam over regular coils at my house. I still feel my boyfriend moving around but it is severely dampened.
posted by magnetsphere at 9:54 AM on July 13, 2011

let us talk psychology for a moment. because I have trouble sleeping with people for that kind of reason—it's sort of like I'm not comfortable taking my eyes off of them, partly because it feels rude to ignore them and partly because it feels like it would be dangerous if I did, almost in a monsters-under-the-bed sort of way.

so, to that end: how comfortable are the two of you with being around each other? how long have you been together? how easily do you laugh together? do you know what she likes for breakfast? do you shower together? do you fart around her? are you comfortable peeing while she's in the bathroom with you? for me, all of these things are part of getting comfortable enough with other people that I can sleep well with them. and it takes time for me to get there.

(although, all that said, I was once sleeping with someone in a king sized bed and it was awesome.)
posted by spindle at 12:35 PM on July 13, 2011

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