Why can't my girlfriend and I fall asleep together?
October 28, 2006 11:30 AM   Subscribe

Why can't my girlfriend and I fall asleep together? Of course there's much

My girlfriend and I have been seeing each other for about 6 months. We feel very comfortable in one another's company and have an active sex life. We've always had a very open line of communication, discussing issues and concerns that we have with each other as they come up. The problem is neither of us can fall asleep when we stay together. We've tried at my place and at her place and nothing is working. I've never been married, she's been separated for two years after a 12 year marriage. We both agree that not being able to sleep together is a deal breaker but feel that the other aspects of aspects of our relationship are strong enough to try anything to get beyond this issue. Many thanks for any and all suggestions.
posted by hangingbyathread to Human Relations (28 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Can you give more details about what exactly the problem is? Is it that you're physically bumping into each other all the time, or is it purely psychological?
posted by myeviltwin at 11:33 AM on October 28, 2006

I've often found that the first few nights that I sleep in the same bed with somebody, it's very difficult to get to sleep. I just live with it for a few nights and then it gets better. How many times have you tried?
posted by number9dream at 11:35 AM on October 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

Just try it every night for a week. Eventually you'll get tired enough to actually fall asleep. Once you get used to it it shouldn't be a problem anymore, I would imagine.

Also, which one of you actually can't get to sleep?

Also, try taking sleeping pills.
posted by delmoi at 11:36 AM on October 28, 2006

Try a really big bed. If it's a great relationship otherwise, it's worth the price of a California King.

Not quite sure what the problem is though, or why it's a dealbreaker. I have a hell of a time getting to sleep with someone else in bed with me.
posted by bluejayk at 11:39 AM on October 28, 2006

Seconding trying a bigger bed, but I also don't understand why this would be a dealbreaker and suggest that you might want to rethink this. Plenty of people can't sleep well with others, due to being light sleepers, snoring, temperature, whatever, and plenty of very happy couples don't sleep in the same bed. Perhaps you could consider thinking about why this is a dealbreaker if everything else is good, I think there's a lot of romanticized, unrealistic thinking about the need for couples to sleep together, when really, sleeping should be about, you know, sleeping, getting a restful night's recharging, it has nothing to do with a relationship and if you sleep better alone, then that's just how it is (my husband and I sleep together some nights, other nights we start off with a cuddle together and then one or the other of us goes and sleeps in the guest bedroom, in my experience, good relationships are even better when both parties are well-rested, rather than being tired and cranky from lack of sleep caused by trying to share a bed when that just doesn't work for getting restful sleep).
posted by biscotti at 12:08 PM on October 28, 2006 [2 favorites]

Have some after-sex wine?
posted by devilsbrigade at 12:23 PM on October 28, 2006

Or, better yet, after-sex wine-and-percocet.

Seriously though, Melatonin can work wonders for you. And not focusing on "cuddling," etc, but on staying in your own space, at least initially.
posted by disillusioned at 12:25 PM on October 28, 2006

I can't sleep and cuddle. It's one or the other. I don't think this is uncommon.

I've been in the same excellect relationship for 14 years now, so it's not automatically a deal breaker unless you make it so.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 12:33 PM on October 28, 2006

I had an aunt and uncle who had the best marriage I ever saw as a young person (my role models for my own very satisfactory marriage). They never slept together. They had separate bedrooms from very early in their marriage; he snored and kept her awake, and she had some very particular nit-picky arrangement of pillows she couldn't do without. *shrug* They had six kids and many happy decades together before he died a few years ago. One way they were my role models (besides that it was obvious they liked each other and all six of their kids) is that they did not worry about what was conventional; they did what worked for them even when it scandalized the extended family.

I sometimes sleep better alone. I'm having a stretch of insomniac nights lately, and when I'm tossing and turning in the king I share with my beloved, I go lie down on the couch and usually fall asleep quickly. I'm not sure why, but it works. Fortunately neither of us is inclined to freak out about this because we know how good our relationship is.

If things are really as good as you say they are, you would be foolish to end a relationship over something like not being able to fall asleep in the same bed.
posted by not that girl at 12:44 PM on October 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

Maybe try seperate sheets and blankets, as in one flat sheet covering the mattress and then a sheet and a blanket for each of you to wrap up in by yourselves. When my now-husband introduced this to me when we were dating I thought it was odd and felt kind of isolated, but I soon learned the pleasure of having my beloved next to me, but also having my own blanket that wouldn't get stolen, tossed off the bed, or otherwise tampered with. Apparently it's common in Belgium, and I'm surprised more people don't do it here.

Also, are you trying to sleep all cuddled up? I can't do that, and lots of people I know can't do it either. I can't even get to sleep while facing another my husband. It has nothing to do with love or comfort levels, and everything to do with being a light sleeper who can't get to sleep with someone hanging on me or breathing on my face. Maybe you can do your cuddling, and then roll apart to sleep.

Good luck!
posted by christinetheslp at 12:44 PM on October 28, 2006

We cuddle for a little while and then roll apart. Sometimes we have separate blankets to keep ourselves in a comfortable temperature "zone".
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:51 PM on October 28, 2006

Yes, this is one of those situations which have so many variables so it's difficult to give a clear cut answer. With my first husband, we could sleep together beautifully right from thr beginning-- no adjustments at all. However, later I remarried, and had great difficulty with husband # 2 ( not just sleep issues) but it was because he snored very loudly as well as kicked his legs around quite a bit.
Some couples just have to sleep apart, esp if they are both working. It may not be ideal, but if the rest of the relationship is working well then accept it. However if other serious issues are there in addition to not sleeping together then it could be time to end things.
posted by GoodJob! at 1:08 PM on October 28, 2006

Perhaps you could try a scheme where you decide on a deadline after which both of you acknowledge that it's lights out and that chat/huggle time is over. For example, maybe you snuggle together or read/chat in bed for a while, but after the lamp next to the bed is turned off you both agree that it's sleep time, and that talking or cuddling won't continue. My point here is that perhaps you are both always in a continual "must stay awake in case the other still wants to talk" kind of state.

Also try varying the physical arrangements -- try a pillow barrier, separate sheets, etc.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:13 PM on October 28, 2006

My bf and I have had trouble sleeping in the same bed a fair amount of the time, too, though it has usually stemmed from one of us being physically uncomfortable in the other one's bed (I have a spring mattress + pillow top; he has a memory foam bed and used to have a futon + memory topper) or from not having enough room (though that's better now that we both have queen-size beds). It's not a dealbreaker for us because we're entirely too crazy about each other on so many other levels, though there has been some distress about it.

So for us it means A) we hardly ever sleep at my place, B) I have an elabortate pillow arrangement at his place that he accepts, and C) if either one of us is tossing and turning after the cuddle/drift-off-to-sleep phase, we will unfold the futon couch and he'll go sleep on that. On the nights we end up in separate beds to sleep, we get back into the same bed in the morning to snooze/cuddle before we get up to go to work.
posted by scody at 1:34 PM on October 28, 2006

Ditto biscotti. I think that there's a large degree of romanticized thinking surrounding the idea of sleeping together. A lot of people seem to think it's some hallmark of "compatibility" or something, and that if you don't immediately fall into the arms of your lover to sleep, like in the movies, you'll never be comfortable together. This is a cultural lie. You don't have to be able to sleep in the same bed all the time to be in love with each other and be very compatible.

Things to try: get a king-size (or at very least queen-size bed). Get huge blankets, so you're not both tugging on the same tiny blanket. Don't think you need to sleep facing each other—the other person's breathing can be very distracting. Similarly, you don't need to cuddle when you're asleep—very often that makes it impossible to sleep well. Also, take a break from sleeping together sometimes—I've found that I get exhausted after too many nights in a row sleeping with my sweetie.

Further, if one of you goes to sleep significantly later or gets up significantly earlier than the other, that can disrupt sleep. So, too, can snoring or restless legs, as mentioned above. Some couples, especially those in which both partners work, end up sleeping together only those nights when it's convenient for both, as mentioned above. This is okay.

Let's be realistic: Most people spend at least 18-20 years of their lives sleeping alone. Don't expect to get used to sleeping with someone else, especially someone new, right away. Much like sex with a new partner, sleeping together takes some adjustment.
posted by limeonaire at 1:34 PM on October 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

Why is this a deal breaker? I can't sleep with my wife, no way. She snores, tosses and turns, talks in her sleep....but the sex is great and so are many other parts of our marriage. Plenty of people sleep in different beds - even different rooms! I would hope you would rethink and not let a cultural tradition be a deal breaker for your otherwise sound relationship.

posted by Gerard Sorme at 2:43 PM on October 28, 2006

Thank you all for the great suggestions and encouragement. It's reassuring to hear that others have had similar issues. Please, keep them coming.
posted by hangingbyathread at 2:51 PM on October 28, 2006

My partner of 6 years and I both acknowledge that we sleep MUCH better when we're sleeping alone, although we do share a bed. No offence is taken if either of us goes to another bed to sleep due to snoring / coughing / whatever.

I can see why it would be frustrating for you, but it's really a long way from a deal breaker.

Sleeping in a bed with another person is, to some degree, a learned skill. You have to learn not to roll over and smack the other person in the face with a flailing arm, not to steal the covers, how to sleep in such a way that you don't snore and so on. It takes time!
posted by tomble at 3:36 PM on October 28, 2006

Have you two gone on a trip and slept in a hotel bed together? How did that go?

Maybe getting a new bed would help....

From personal experience, I think there is some territorial instinct that causing the problem. Maybe both you can't stand to have someone else in your "territory".

On trips with friends and after parties, I can sleep in bed with any crazy combination of people and I don't have a problem. With my ex-GFs, I could sleep in their beds without a problem. But whenever an ex-GF slept in my bed, I'd always have a difficult time. By morning, I'd usually be rolled away from them, and have to turn to snooze and chat with them.
posted by Cog at 4:20 PM on October 28, 2006

My parents slept in 2 twin beds pushed together, with king-size (I guess) sheets and blankets to cover the whole works, which might be something to consider if the issue is movement. And I have to say that I don't understand the dealbreaker aspect either, since my wife and I have happily slept on separate floors for the past 17 years. :)
posted by sgass at 9:27 PM on October 28, 2006

I only really succeed in sleeping with another person if there's a big bed and seperate blankets. Cuddling just doesn't work in terms of sleeping. Now, my ex could sleep through ANYTHING, and all of this annoyed him.

I mean, sleep is sleep. For me it's always been a tricky thing and what I have to do to fall asleep is what I have to do to fall asleep, no matter what it might "represent"
posted by dagnyscott at 7:31 AM on October 29, 2006

Earplugs, earplugs, earplugs.
posted by armacy at 9:04 AM on October 29, 2006

Ya, earplugs, individual comforters, new mattress, separate bedrooms if you have too, but making this a dealbreaker if everything else is going swimmingly just seems kind of picky and random and not in either of your best interests.
posted by Jess the Mess at 10:28 AM on October 29, 2006

Agree with Rhomboid. It doesn't have to be quite as clinical as he made it sound, but my gf and I have gotten into the habit of going to bed, having our cuddle/chat time, then when one/both of us are sleepy we roll over and go to sleep. Sleeping close makes me sweat and there's long hair involved and man...It just doesn't work! (For what it's worth we always have at least one body part touching while we sleep so we don't feel like we're miles apart.) :)
posted by CwgrlUp at 5:50 PM on October 29, 2006

I can't consistently sleep well next to someone in anything smaller than a queen-sized bed. For me the difference between a queen and a regular-size is all the difference in the world.

Also, I've found that if my partner prefers a radically different softness to the mattress, there are problems. If this is the case maybe both of you can compromise and meet halfway (and hopefully get used to the new arrangement).

I also have trouble sleeping next to someone new, but that wears off with time (sometimes as long as a few months). I second the "keep trying until someone falls asleep from exhaustion" advice. If it's just the newness of the situation that should wear off and become comfortable eventually.
posted by digitalis at 8:07 PM on October 29, 2006

My husband and I had the same problem (he'd end up moving to the guest room in the middle of the night when we even attemped to sleep together.) But then we got a queen mattress, and now we have no problems. (Unless he has a cold and snores. Then I leave to sleep in the guest room.)
posted by pyjammy at 11:37 AM on October 30, 2006

Why would this be a deal-breaker, is my question. Even if you end up married, there's no shame in separate beds.
posted by agregoli at 2:39 PM on October 30, 2006

My main problem when sleeping with others tends to be that my body temperature seems higher than theirs initially, and theirs just adds to it, and I have a low tolerance for being too hot. It makes it very difficult to sleep with someone else when there's a lot of close cuddling and contact.

The best solution I've found for that problem is to sleep right next to the wall, which is usually much cooler and draws off a lot of my excess heat, or partially uncovered.
posted by ElfWord at 5:30 AM on October 31, 2006

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