To Bed, Perchance to Sleep
March 24, 2013 4:29 PM   Subscribe

Help my boyfriend and I sleep (in the same bed) together!

We're having some difficulty sleeping together in the same bed, because we each have a habit that keeps the other awake:

- He likes to work in bed at all hours, but the clicking of the keyboard on his laptop keeps me awake. He's willing to leave the room, but it's way more comfortable for him to work from bed (and I don't mind as long as the clicking doesn't keep me up). Have you solved this problem? Do you have a keyboard cover or something? He has a MacBook Air laptop, if that makes any difference.

- I talk, moan and yell in my sleep and it wakes him up. I've had this yelling issue for many years -- since a significant incident with my family that caused a lot of issues for me. I've been in therapy (and still am), but nothing seems to help for this particular issue. I tend to do it more when I'm stressed out about something, angry with him about something, or feeling anxious about something that will happen the next day. Do you have this problem? How have you coped with it?

We don't seem to have big "stealing the blankets" or other issues. I'm a fairly light sleeper, and I think he is too.

Feel free to ask other questions and I will answer. Thank you!
posted by 3491again to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you gone to a doctor and had a sleep study? Talking and yelling in your sleep is as likely to be a medical issue fixable through medical means than through therapy. It may be something that medication will help if therapy won't. Entirely separate from whether it keeps him up, it is probably interfering with you getting a good night's sleep.

Also, though: eye masks & earplugs for both of you.
posted by brainmouse at 4:34 PM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Earplugs. For both of you, for both issues.
posted by decathecting at 4:35 PM on March 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

Earplugs for both of you, and/or a white noise machine (or a big fan). My boyfriend snores, and gets up multiple times in the night. I use these to great effect.
posted by baby beluga at 4:36 PM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Just popping in to say that I use earplugs occasionally, but I am prone to ear infections so I try to keep their use to a minimum (like not every night). So other solutions that address the sleep yelling or the keyboard clicking at the source (as it were) would be great.
posted by 3491again at 5:01 PM on March 24, 2013

Also, consider sleeping in separate beds if you can afford it. My wife and I love each other very much. She snores. I thrash around. We sleep in separate rooms. Everyone gets more sleep.

While it is romantic to sleep in the same bed, you can always cuddle a bit, and then head off.
posted by musofire at 5:02 PM on March 24, 2013 [14 favorites]

The wife and I both snore. She can sleep through it, I wear earplugs. Truly a blessing.
posted by Splunge at 5:09 PM on March 24, 2013

Earplugs. But if it were me, I'd ask him to go type on the couch.

For your yelling stuff, it sounds like you're working on it, but maybe it would also help to talk stuff out with him before going to sleep, if part of the trigger is being angry with him.

Sorry, no technologic fixes that I know of. I used what a friend calls the "Keyboard Condom", but noticed only a slight difference in sound.
posted by latkes at 5:15 PM on March 24, 2013

I'm a big fan of SleepPhones, hooked up to my phone playing podcasts or audio books or something on Netflix. You can find white(/brown/pink/thunderstorm)-noise apps as well. I don't have a partner but they are particularly nice when the kid in the adjacent apartment is practicing his trombone at 11 pm, or when my previous roommates were having enthusiastic threesomes a thin wall away. They ought to be less likely to cause infections than earplugs.
posted by ecsh at 5:36 PM on March 24, 2013 [5 favorites]

His issue is a "habit" that he has full control over. Your issue is not a "habit" in the same sense, but a problem you're experiencing that you may or may not be able to solve.

Two things that might help you are a calming, before-bed sleep routine, and a ritual of talking stuff out with him, not at bedtime (don't get yourself all wound up) but sometime before.

I would also experiment to see if you do the noise-making stuff on nights when he's on his computer in another room, to make sure they're not related. (I know you said it's stemming from pre-existing family stuff, but it couldn't hurt.)
posted by bleep at 5:41 PM on March 24, 2013 [7 favorites]

i think using an ipad instead of a laptop would help since the keyboard is virtual and you can turn off the clicking noise of the keys. of course that is a rather expensive fix.

as for your sleep yelling maybe try some relaxation mp3s before going to sleep might help. i've never done hypnosis, and am not sure that i would, but i bet this is the sort of thing it treats.
posted by wildflower at 5:58 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry, but your taking, moaning and yelling in your sleep dwarfs his keyboard typing in level of disturbance. If he moves to the couch, he still has to contend with your noise when he gets back to bed.

Secondly, your talking/moaning/yelling is disturbing your own sleep as well, regardless of his keyboard sound.

Therefore, don't equate the 2 issues, and get serious sleep therapy for your issue at the earliest.
posted by Kruger5 at 6:04 PM on March 24, 2013

It really sounds like you need to sleep in separate rooms if possible. I am sorry you have such stressful sleep but since it's not something that you can currently control I would suggest not sharing a bed.
posted by radioamy at 6:14 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Try a hepa filter for white noise for the key clicks. I too have a loud sleep disorder. As I have been single more than in a relationship, I haven't come up with any solutions other than enjoying heavy sleepers more than light sleepers. Stress does make it worse. You probably should be evaluated but, if you aren't sleepy during the day and you are getting quality sleep in between your personal noise, it isn't anything that urgent. Have you tried yoga or meditation?
It's not the end of the relationship if you can't share a bed. I wouldn't want to share a bed with someone who uses it as a desk. That would drive me crazy.
posted by myselfasme at 6:33 PM on March 24, 2013

I use headphones to listen to music when I go to sleep, plus my husband's cpap machine produces white noise. I put that on even when he's not in bed because he is usually watching tv in another room, and I hate tv noise when I am trying to sleep (unless I am dozing on the couch, that's different.) Try that, maybe?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:48 PM on March 24, 2013

Perhaps it's because I suffer from a wild variety of parasomnias myself (talking in sleep, moaning, sleepwalking, teeth grinding, night terrors--you name it, and I have dealt with it) but I'm going to disagree with Kruger5.

I'm also prone to using my Macbook in bed, clacking away, so perhaps I am uniquely situated on this one, but this is what I think: you guys should treat your problems as equally problematic and give equal weight to solutions for each.

Your particular flavor of parasomnia sounds like somniloquy (sleep talking by any other name) for which there seems to be little treatment and no cure. You can read the alarming but well researched Buzzfeed article on night terrors and other parasomnias to find out more about treatment limitations. The general recommendation seems to be 'lower your stress levels' which--I don't know about you--has never done anything more than stress me out further. You should still talk to a sleep specialist to see what's up but the interesting part of the Buzzfeed article was that many people found therapy more helpful than medication or other medical treatment.

So given that, I would propose that your partner use earplugs to stay asleep (and the both of you could probably use white noise to get to sleep). I will note that my partners (and roommates and campmates and hotel roommates and so forth) have either used ear plugs to get to sleep or suffered through a few bad nights of sleep initially and adjusted completely over time without further aid. I can also recommend that your partner wake you up when your noise gets the loudest, if they don't already. For whatever reason, being woken up tends to quiet me down for the rest of the night. You should also continue therapy and work to address your underlying stressors in daytime so they don't come out at night.

As for you, well an iPad mini is only $329 so it's a solution worth thinking about in all seriousness (perhaps after you've determined whether your partner can tolerate ear plugs to sleep). Otherwise, huge agreement with the more immediate and practical recommendation for white noise and other background noise to muffle the keyboard clicks.

Best of luck to you and your partner for a good night's sleep--together.
posted by librarylis at 7:08 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are USB membrane keyboards that, being a piece of silicon rubber, make no noise when you are using them. The feel for a touch typist is pretty horrible but they are way better than typing on a screen.
posted by Mitheral at 7:18 PM on March 24, 2013

I get that he likes to work in bed, but really, to make the bed a sanctuary and conducive for sleep, it should mainly be used for sleeping. Is your bedroom big enough that he relocate to a comfortable chair in the bedroom when he is working? - i.e. be close by and comfortable but not typing so close to you? IPAD mini is another good suggestion.

As for you, I agree that you should try a sleep study. A friend had the habit of suddenly sitting straight up in bed while asleep. He had a sleep study, started to use a cpap machine, and that quirk stopped completely. Another friend has a mild sleep disorder. The solution, after sleep studies, much tinkering and various doctors, was for her to take a very low dose of an antidepressant. If you don't find that there is a medical solution, then your partner should try the earplugs and white noise solutions.

I'm a naturally light sleeper and white noise really helps me deal with that issue. Fortunately, my husband now uses a cpap machine which works as a white noise machine for me, so win win.
posted by gudrun at 7:19 PM on March 24, 2013 [5 favorites]

I use a silicone keyboard skin on a MacBook. It cost about $10, a lot less than an iPad, and there is no clicking (although the typing is still audible but quiet). Certainly worth trying!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:10 PM on March 24, 2013

Does the talking/yelling wake you up? Also is he able to go back to sleep after he's woken up or is he wide-awake and grumble-some?

This is no solution but the archives of Sleep Talkin Man may help relieve some stress. "Cuff him! Arrest him! I don't care, that manatee is going down!"
posted by spamandkimchi at 8:54 PM on March 24, 2013

Earplugs do not help with yelling. I am a devout earplug user (and because I'm prone to ear infections, I buy them in large quantities and never EVER reuse them) and yelling, crashes, and even loud snoring still wake me up. They'd work fine for keyboard noise (and quiet snoring) though the light from the screen would drive me crazy.

Yes, sleep study for the yelling. I wonder if some sort of PTSD treatment like EMDR would even help? (I'm reaching here- I have no idea.) But if you get tense about whether or not you'll be able to sleep, as I would in your shoes if he's on his Mac, that tension might be enough to set it off?
posted by small_ruminant at 9:23 PM on March 24, 2013

Even if you don't steal the covers from each other getting your own blankets helps a lot. I'm a super light sleeper and getting our own blankets has helped so much. I didn't realize that even slight movement of the covers was waking me a bit. You could get two single blankets, or get one that is one size bigger than your bed. (ie: a king size duvet for a queen size bed.)

Also, as I have recommended several times, go get custom made earplugs. They will change your life.
posted by sadtomato at 9:45 PM on March 24, 2013

He could get a desk and a chair for using his laptop instead of the bed. For at least his posture.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:58 PM on March 24, 2013

Theres already been good advice for the yelling/etc, so I'll stick to the laptop thing.

And yea, I'm nthing the "bed is for sleeping" people. He should be on his laptop somewhere else, possibly not even in the bedroom. I seriously don't think that's some ridiculous unreasonable thing to ask, even if he presents it as such. Associating the bed with things other than sleeping can(and will) cause trouble falling asleep at a reasonable time, and in a reasonable amount of time. Full stop.

I used to be that guy, for years. As I've slowly broken the habit I've slept so much better and fallen asleep a lot quicker after getting in bed.
posted by emptythought at 11:01 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

There's some good tips up there.

But I don't think your unwelcome sleep disruptions, which you don't choose, and his typing, which he chooses to do, are similar things at all.

One partner does not get to work audibly in bed while the other wants to sleep, if it disturbs the sleeper.

Here's our sleep strat:

* Nobody works in bed if the other is sleeping. TV, if there is one in the room, or other noises, like iPhone videos or Vines or whatever (lol), go off at a mutually agreeable hour. "Hey, I'm exhausted, I need to go to be in bed earlier tonight" or "I have a 7 a.m. meeting, I need lights out at 11:30 p.m. tonight" is basically never to be disrespected.

* iPhone reading or what-have-you while the other sleeps is fine if it's dimmed and set on white-text-on-black.

* Fan on right side of bed creates reassuring hum.

* White noise machine at opposite side of room, foot of bed, provides wall of sound.

* Humidifier (winter-only) provides some snoring relief.

* Air conditioner (summer) makes even more white noise.

* With all that in place, we go to sleep normally like normal people. Having a big bed really helps. People with snoring or sleep issues really can't share a double bed or even a queen, if it can be helped. (I realize sometimes it can't.)

* Sleep disruption? Move to sleep head-to-toe. YUP. The old flip-around. Whoever is disturbed or disturbing or awakened first simply turns upside down. SURPRISINGLY WONDERFUL once you get used to it. (We call it "reversing the polarity," heh.)

* Nightmare night? Off to the next bedroom (or couch, or whatever exists that someone can sleep on) with whomever is more ambulatory. (I try to be the one who leaves if I'm the one doing the disrupting. That "disrupting" includes "me wishing to work on the computer," and so I take my computer out of the bed if I am seized with the desire to work.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:35 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

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