May was Better Sleep Month (so we're a few days late... oops!) and is there anyone who couldn’t use a better night’s sleep? There are all sorts of tips and tricks for getting better rest: cutting out caffeine, reducing evening screen time, creating relaxing bedtime rituals. But my husband and I took things a few steps further to catch our Z’s.
We sleep in separate bedrooms.
We haven’t always done this. For a long time we were pretty compatible sleepers. We met on the night shift and our biggest problem with sleep was trying to get it during the day. But we bought blackout curtains for the windows and a good white noise machine, and for many years we slept just fine. Then we had a baby.
At first our odd schedule worked in our favor. After parental leave ended, my husband went back to work, but I quit my job to stay home with our daughter. I had baby duty most of the night, and in the afternoons he took over and let me nap. But because I was exclusively nursing, I still rarely got more than a four-hour stretch of sleep.
And then, miraculously, my daughter started sleeping through the night. All the way through the night, which should have been the start of me and sleep becoming best friends again. Except now everything was different. I’m a light sleeper so no matter how quiet he tried to be as he got into bed, my husband woke me up almost every night. Then a few hours later, my daughter would wake me up again and I would hastily shut off the baby monitor and lurch out of bed, fumbling around in the dark for my phone and my slippers, trying to get out of the room without waking my husband. Setting an alarm would definitely disturb him, so I never had the luxury of getting up before my daughter and getting a shower or five minutes of alone time. If I did happen to wake up before her, the darkness of the bedroom made it hard not to just fall back to sleep. I was also starting to resent that for half the day, I couldn’t access my own bedroom without the risk of waking my husband. I was miserable. Something had to change.
Before I did anything drastic, I consulted the internet. Maybe I was being foolish. Maybe there was some study that proved 100% of couples who sleep in separate rooms end up divorced. What I found instead was that separate beds is actually borderline trendy! According to the National Sleep Foundation, 25% of cohabiting couples sleep in separate beds. More and more homes are being built with double master suites, not just for aging relatives or post-grad kids returning to the nest, but for couples who’ve decided that sleeping well is more important than sleeping together.
My husband was dubious. While he agreed with the practical reasons, the stigma still worried him and to be honest, it worried me a bit, too. What would people think? We decided to try it out anyway and if either of us didn’t like it, we’d reevaluate.
It turns out we like it. A lot. Now I wake in the mornings after a full night’s sleep with sunlight streaming through the window. I can stretch and read e-mail on my phone while listening to my daughter chatter to herself on the baby monitor. I ease into wakefulness, a much better start to the day than stumbling around in the dark. My husband is no longer woken up by my stumbling. We’re both sleeping better, possibly even better than we did before we became parents.
You might be thinking, “But what about intimacy?” For us, the conflicting schedules meant we had to address that problem long before I moved across the hall. For couples who normally sleep at the same time, the theory is that a person who is well-rested is more likely to want to be intimate with their partner and they find that sex can be more exciting when it’s not restricted to bedtime.
Separate bedrooms probably aren’t for everyone. I think the key is that we were honest about our reasons and our expectations. It could be very easy for sleeping apart to create resentment if both people aren't on board but we're six months in and happier than ever. We'll likely share a bed again someday, if circumstances change, but in the meantime, the "his and hers" arrangement is working wonders.
Are you and your partner compatible sleepers? Do you wish you could have your own bed or even your own room?