couples

"My boyfriend and I sleep in separate bedrooms and it’s the best decision we’ve ever made."

“So you’re not sharing a bed anymore? Ever?”

“Pretty much,” I replied with a shrug.

My friend raised his eyebrows. “I don’t know about that. It sounds strange. I love sharing a bed with Kaye.”

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I wanted to reply that they’d only been together for six months, of course they loved sharing a bed. They were still in that new, exciting part of their relationship where a few nights of lost sleep didn’t matter.

But then my friends who have been together for over five years chimed in. “I’m with Chris. It’s special sleeping together. It would be weird not sharing a bed after all this time.”

Like most couples, when Steve and I first started dating we loved sharing a bed. There was never a moment in our first year together where I’d imagined that four years later we’d have our own bedrooms. Our first Christmas as a couple, I wrote inside his card that I was looking forward to waking up next to him every morning. We moved in together that February, and some nights we’d spend hours talking or having sex. It never bothered either of us that we were tired the next day.

It wasn’t until we moved from Adelaide to Melbourne in 2016, after being together for over a year, that the cracks in our sleeping habits started to appear. I’d get annoyed at the whisper of his earphones as he listened to podcasts. He’d lose patience at how often I tossed and turned, or how long it would take me to get dressed in the morning while he was still trying to sleep. Don’t even get me started on the countless hours I lost to his snoring.

Whenever I tell someone new about our sleeping arrangements, I’m flooded with surprise, dismissal, and a lot of unnecessary advice on what else we could try.

“Have you tried falling asleep before him? That always works for me.”

“Maybe you should have the TV or white noise playing in the background? Or I hear earplugs are good too?”

I don’t get annoyed at anyone for their suggestions. I was in denial at first too. I tried it all. I’d listen to music or white noise, but it either didn’t completely drown out his snoring, or I would lie awake unconsciously straining to hear over it. I’ve tried falling asleep first, but it put a lot of pressure on me and it rarely worked, even when I cut out caffeine and started taking Valerian root before bed. I tried exercising more, and less, and at different times of the day. I tried putting up with it and hoping I’d get used to it. I even had custom earphones moulded to the shape of my ear canals.

In the end, I still couldn’t sleep. And then the fighting started.

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“It’s not my fault you can’t sleep!”

“I know it’s not! Stop getting mad at me!”

“I’m only mad because you’re always angry at me over something I can’t control.”

We were both overtired, stressed and moody. Steve was also struggling to fall asleep now. He was so used to me nudging him as soon as his snoring started that he had become hyperaware of every movement I made.

Ironically, I had been on the opposite side of this fight years earlier with a previous boyfriend. When we had been together, my weight had been heavier and it had caused me to snore. A lot.
Remembering that time is where my inspiration came from.

“Do you think we should have separate bedrooms?”

My ex had jokingly suggested it, but I had refused to even consider the idea back then. Like my friends, I had believed that sharing a bed with your partner was important. Vital to the relationship. It had upset me that he’d even thought about it.

Steve, on the other hand, didn’t even hesitate when I brought it up. He had been thinking about it himself for a while, but didn’t know how to broach the topic with me.

“I didn’t think you’d be up for it,” he admitted.

couples sleeping in separate beds
"Like my friends, I had believed that sharing a bed with your partner was important. Vital to the relationship. It had upset me that he’d even thought about it." Image: Supplied.

Truthfully, I was surprised I was too. There was a part of me that wondered if it was a mistake. Would this just push us further apart? When I called my mum to talk to her about it, she did little to ease my worries. If anything, she did the exact opposite.

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“That sounds like the beginning of the end, Cass.”

When you read about couples not sharing a bed, or even see it represented in movies or TV shows, there’s usually something inherently wrong with their relationship. My grandparents hadn’t shared a bed for as long I’d known them, and they had never been a picture of healthy communication. One article I read online even went as far as to say that couples who don’t sleep together find it harder to resolve arguments.

But it still felt like the better alternative to fighting all the time. And while it hasn’t all been smooth sailing since we made the decision, it’s working for us.

Some people think that because we don’t sleep in the same bed, there’s no intimacy anymore. That we’re just like housemates. But if anything, there’s more intimacy now than there was before. We make sure we touch more incidentally; as we’re passing each other in the kitchen; while we’re cuddling on the couch. Plus, on weekends I typically wake up early and climb into his bed before we face the day together. We’re also more interested in sex now that we’re not tired and moody all the time.

According to clinical psycho-sexual therapist Jacqueline Hallyer, the most important aspect of a relationship is to have enough “skin-to-skin” contact.

“It reduces your stress levels; your cortisol levels go down. It increases your immune functioning and it makes you feel more secure in life, so there’s less anxiety.”

Most couples get this contact at bedtime because it’s the most convenient time to do so, but as we’ve proven, it’s not the only way.

Since we stopped sharing a bed six months ago, Steve has been to the doctor about his inflamed sinuses and his snoring is now under control. We’ve talked about sharing again, but ultimately decided against it.
Admittedly, we do share when we have overnight guests or when we’re on holiday, and we sleep relatively well. The lack of snoring and alarm clocks help. On a permanent basis, though, we’ve grown accustomed to having our own space.

Having separate bedrooms might not be the ideal scenario for every couple. There are a few external factors to consider, like the size of your home and your family, well before you even get to look at the internal ones. But if you’re struggling to sleep, it could be worth a shot.

For Steve and me, it’s the best decision we’ve ever made.

Would you and your partner sleep in different bedrooms? Tell us in a comment below.

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