How do I sleep sleep with my partner?
August 17, 2012 2:28 PM   Subscribe

How do I sleep (as in, catch some z's) with my girlfriend?

So, when my (wonderful) girlfriend and I spend the night at either of our places, I have trouble sleeping. It's harder to fall asleep and it's harder to stay asleep. Any tips?

I'm not sure what information is relevant, but I've spent most of life -- and most of my adult life -- single. I've always had trouble falling asleep (not every night, but frequently), but it seems to be harder with company. This has been the case with others in the past, too. Current girlfriend is more into cuddling than others have been, if that matters. We usually have sex and we usually have a couple drinks, but not always on either of those things.

Is this something I'm just going to get over when I get used to us sleeping together? Do you have any hacks? Is there anything I should be considering?
posted by J. Wilson to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: 1. Practice
2. Benadryl
posted by mullingitover at 2:32 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Foam mattresses or thick foam mattress toppers help to dampen the movement that might wake you when the other person shifts.
posted by corvine at 2:34 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Big bed. Separate covers. And yeah, practice.
posted by brennen at 2:35 PM on August 17, 2012 [6 favorites]

Sometimes you can get used to it, sometimes you just can't. It helps if you both try to remember that neither one of you developed your sleeping habits deliberately to irritate the other. So just because she wants to cuddle you doesn't mean that she wants you to get a shitty night's sleep, and just because you don't want to cuddle forever doesn't mean you don't care about her, &c.
posted by elizardbits at 2:36 PM on August 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

A large bed. Seriously, I slept with my husband on a queen for over a decade and didn't sleep well. Now we have a king and it makes a HUGE difference. It's also a memory foam mattress on the floor, which means you feel no movement from the other party. Separate blankets also help if you're dating a blanket-stealer.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:36 PM on August 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

Separate covers. Big bed.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:38 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I sleep better with my current boyfriend in a full bed than I did with my (small) ex in a queen. Some people are just really incompatible sleepers.

Try using two sheets/blankets, one for each of you. Even if you guys don't unconsciously fight over bedding, it will help you to define your personal sleep space and get more comfortable.
posted by phunniemee at 2:42 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cuddle, and then disengage later. Even though I like it, cuddling leaves me too restricted and too hot to sleep well.
posted by Mercaptan at 2:44 PM on August 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

There's no shame in needing to stop the cuddling to get some sleep. Just make sure she knows why you're doing it, so she doesn't read it as body language suggesting you're losing interest in her.
posted by davejay at 2:49 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

see also

there was another more recent thread but i can't find it.
posted by elizardbits at 2:51 PM on August 17, 2012

Best answer: Nthing practice. I can sleep anywhere at any time, but it took my previously-long-single girlfriend three or four months to adjust to sleeping with me most nights. Neither of us can fall asleep while cuddling. Sleeping on the same sides of the bed every night seemed to help (ie, no matter whether we're at her place or mine, she always gets the right side).
posted by snorkmaiden at 2:52 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

woo, found it
posted by elizardbits at 2:55 PM on August 17, 2012

Response by poster: Good advice that I'm already using: turning down the thermostat and disengaging from cuddling at some point.
posted by J. Wilson at 2:57 PM on August 17, 2012

Separate matrasses can also help a lot, especially if you each want different kinds.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:07 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

What is it in particular that makes it difficult to sleep? I've always been a light sleeper as well but my boyfriend felt that it was important to sleep in the same bed. I tried it out, but finally convinced him that I am disturbed by movement/shaking of the bed in the night and that it was in no way a reflection of my need to be close to him. We do separate beds in the same room (we've talked about a memory foam mattress later on, which would probably do the same thing). Also sensitive to noise such as snoring, so we got a white noise generator. Those two things combined have made a *huge* difference and I'm sleeping pretty soundly these days.

Was almost never able to fall asleep while cuddling unless dead tired :) Also good to think relaxing thoughts if you aren't able to stay asleep, and tend to wake up periodically. Is there something on your mind, such as worrying about not getting enough sleep? I also noticed that going to bed near the same time each night contributed to how quickly I fell asleep (your body goes, now it's sleep time!), exercising during the day, etc. Those are things that you may already know, but seem to become even more important when you add a new person to your sleep routine.
posted by iadacanavon at 3:09 PM on August 17, 2012

I would actually discourage cuddling, period. No touching! Cuddling for a while and then moving away is going to extend the amount of time you spend awake after the lights are out. If you're someone like me who does have periodic issues with being able to fall asleep, that could cause anxiety about the whole situation and compound the problem. Just pretend she's not there and go to sleep like you normally would.
posted by something something at 3:18 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Accept that you are both going to have to re-train your sleeping habits somewhat. Accept that you are going to have a few nights of shitty sleep while this process happens. Discuss the issue with her and try to figure out what each of you can do to mitigate the problem. Try to find an acceptable compromise between your different needs and desires for bedtime. And do everything you can to facilitate the onset of sleep -- whatever you normally do if you are trying to shut down and go to sleep quickly.
posted by Scientist at 3:33 PM on August 17, 2012

If you don't object to sound, try turning down the volume on your headphones to really low, barely audible and listen to the Librivox recording of "Moby Dick".

I haven't stayed awake for an entire chapter yet!
posted by at the crossroads at 3:58 PM on August 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

I dated a woman who loved to fall asleep under a pile of covers as the little spoon to my big spoon. I love a freezing-cold room, I am a naked sleeper, and I only really fall asleep on my back.

One thing that helped was me getting outside the covers (but keeping an arm around her) as she fell asleep and then getting back under the sheet later. This allowed me to cool down and sprawl out without disrupting her and only delayed my sleep by a few minutes.

You may have to develop a similar unusual routine to be really comfortable, but it's worth it.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:01 PM on August 17, 2012

In the entirety of my "sleeping with other people in the bed" life, there has only been one person who I was able to fall asleep next to the first night. It usually takes me a few months of constant practice before I learn enough about their sleep behavior to be able to tune it out and get decent sleep myself.
posted by mollymayhem at 5:11 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I could never really sleep with my partner until I got pregnant and started building the third trimester supportive pillow fort in bed at night, which had the nice side effect of creating a sleep-promoting barrier between us. So maybe try laying a body pillow between you and her when you're done cuddling? Also, putting the mattress on the floor helped by dampening the other person's movements.
posted by yarly at 5:15 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, there's no shame in having two beds!
posted by yarly at 5:16 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I asked the same question here in 2006. The best solution turned out to be time. Within a few months we were sleeping fine. We often use separate covers, which helps with the problem of cover stealing. We also realized that we sleep best alone—that is, on opposite sides of the bed, rather than trying to be intertwined or something. Recommended.
posted by waldo at 5:31 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yep, like others, a big bed, and separate covers. So liberating.
posted by nanook at 6:15 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Consider holding hands (or other minimal physical contact) as an alternative to cuddling. I've used this with little kids (I cannot stand having someone, even a very tiny someone who I really like, lying on top of me while I try to sleep) and it seems to work better than going cold turkey. I bet that if you tried this with a cooperative adult who uses real words it'll be even more effective than it is with toddlers (or cats.)
posted by SMPA at 6:49 PM on August 17, 2012

Never worked for Husbunny and I. Separate bedrooms. But a king in one of them for sexytimes and Pride Time. Intimacy doesn't have to include actual sleep. Well rested people are happy and loving people.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:57 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

The best sleep I ever got was when I, a cuddling type, and my guy, not a cuddling-while-sleeping type, came to an understand. We'd cuddle for a while, whether his arm over me or vice versa, and then drift away while we slept.

However, if I felt like drifting back I would limit myself to hand on his arm. Or my forehead pressed between his shoulder blades and my hand(s) lightly against his back. Sometimes I'd wake up with my forehead nestled lower against his side, as I'd apparently scooched down in my sleep.

Sometimes we'd wake up nestled together. Sometimes I'd push him away because he was too warm.

Point being, you'll both have to sacrifice a little. She'll have to be more open to training herself to "light touches" (since it's the awareness that you're there which is likely comforting, and not so much being entwined like squids) and you'll have to train yourself in letting yourself have skin contact while you sleep without letting it disturb you.
posted by DisreputableDog at 8:52 PM on August 17, 2012

Definitely separate covers. Oh man did that make a huge difference! I think it's much more common in Europe. I always hated top sheets so we just ditched that, and each of us has our own blankets. Sometimes we cuddle before sleeping but I can't sleep touching anyone.

Oh yeah, and time helps. And a big bed.
posted by radioamy at 9:09 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

In our house there is cuddling time for 10-15 minutes which, for us, is a nice way to transition from awake to horizontal together to sleep. Also, if noises are still new and extra noticeable in the dark it sometimes helps to turn on a fan or, like Moby Dick above, some sort of white noise that can set a hum to which one can relax into sleep.
posted by mcbeth at 9:36 PM on August 17, 2012

Oh yeah, separate covers, totally.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:49 AM on August 18, 2012

« Older Why Don't Westerners Wear Robes in the Desert?   |   What should I ask my doctor to test for? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.