I usually get two different reactions when I tell people my husband and I sleep in separate beds.
The first – and probably the one you’d expect – is one of concern. Many assume that sleeping apart means there must be “trouble in paradise”.
After all, in Western culture we’re widely told that happy couples sleep together – and unhappy couples don’t.
Watch: MM Confessions: My partner doesn't know. Story continues below.
But the other response I get is one of sheer relief from people who do the same and love knowing they’re not the only ones.
It happened at the playground last week when my daughter was playing with a little boy.
I got chatting to his dad and he asked the question all parents of toddlers seem to ask each other: “How does your little one sleep?”
I replied: “She tends to wake up once a night, but my husband and I take turns having the baby monitor and the other sleeps in the spare room.”
I’m quite an open book, but I was surprised it came out of my mouth so casually to someone I’d just met.
But the second I said it, I could see this guy’s eyes light up because I’d just given him permission to admit that he and his wife do the exact same thing.
“It’s the best decision we ever made,” he said.
And I tend to agree with him!
Like many couples who become parents, my husband and I adopted the relay method when it came to those early days of constant round-the-clock-wakes up with a newborn (you can read Mia Freedman and Holly Wainwright talk about it here).
We went into survival mode.
So, rather than us both having our sleep interrupted, whoever was up with our daughter did so without having to be quiet while the other one got to have some much-needed sleep in the other room.
And it worked so well, we just kept doing it.
But I can’t blame it all on the baby!
We had already endured years of me wearing ear plugs and kicking my husband every time he made a slight noise. And him sleeping poorly because he was trying not to wake me.
Despite being happily married for the last eight years, we just had to admit we are totally incompatible when it comes to sleep.
He is a snorer, I’m a light sleeper.
I always get cold in the night and want a thick doona, he gets hot and kicks the sheets off.
He happily springs out of bed to start the day, I love nothing more than a sleep-in.
So sleeping separately became the obvious solution.
Of course, it wasn’t without concern that it was a 'bad' thing to do. Would it feel like we had lost that closeness somehow?
But most of my worry was driven by what other people would think of the arrangement.
And that’s one of the most common barriers for exhausted couples, according to author Jennifer Adams.
She and her partner, Fraser, had been together less than six months when they decided to sleep in separate beds.
“We’d just moved in together, but a week into it our eyeballs were hanging down on our cheeks,” the 57-year-old told Mamamia.
“We realised it wasn’t going to work for us. We were so happy in our relationship but we both needed to be able to get sleep for the sake of our health.”
The more candid Jennifer was about their sleeping arrangement, the more she realised how much social expectations were attached to the decision.
“I was fascinated by people’s responses to it – they were either horrified or thought it was a wonderful idea,” Jennifer said.
“I met a woman who was building a house with her partner and kept lying to people about why they were having two master bedrooms, because she was too embarrassed to admit they slept apart.”
Speaking to hundreds of people about their experiences with a chronic lack of sleep, Jennifer went on to publish ‘Sleeping Apart Not Falling Apart: how to get a good night’s sleep and keep your relationship alive’.
And having been happily married for 16 years, Jennifer practises what she preaches.
“My advice to couples wanting to do this is to be really clear about why. It could be snoring or differing sleep schedules, but if you’re wanting to sleep away from your partner for any reason other than maintaining your sleep health, then that’s a different situation altogether,” she said.
“Sleeping apart doesn’t have to change your emotional connection, you just need to have a really honest conversation about what it looks like for you.
“Some couples fall asleep together and then one of them moves in the night, or they sleep separately during the week but together on weekends. It’s all about what works for you.”
Of course, the number one question people inevitably want answered is “But don’t you have less sex?”
But I haven’t found that to be the case at all.
When you’re better rested and not irritated at your partner for stealing the doona, you are much more loving towards them!
And of course, sleepovers still happen when we’re on holidays or have someone come to visit. It’s like we’re back in the early days of dating again!
Jennifer agrees that when your sleep is made a priority, there can be a lot of benefits for your relationship.
Listen to This Glorious Mess. On this episode, we spoke to sleep consultant and founder of The Frae, Kylie Camps and we answer some of your questions about sustainable sleep practices. Article continues after audio.
“When people aren’t exhausted and they don’t have resentment towards their partner, they don’t want to kill them, so they’re a lot more likely to want to have sex with them!” Jennifer joked.
“A lot of couples have fun with it, like ‘your bed or mine?’
“One woman in her 70s told me she had a butler’s bell she would ring to let her husband know he should come to her room!”
While exact figures aren’t known, it’s estimated around one in four couples choose to sleep separately, but there is still a huge stigma around it.
But when I go to bed on my fancy linen sheets and get a solid eight hours without someone stealing my doona, I get the feeling I’m onto something.
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