More American Couples Sleeping In Separate Beds

I think that sounds kind of lonely. But apparently it works for some people – a lot of people. A New York Times article recently delved into the prevalence of the practice:

Nearly one in four American couples sleep in separate bedrooms or beds, the National Sleep Foundation reported in a 2005 survey. Recent studies in England and Japan have found similar results. And the National Association of Home Builders says it expects 60 percent of custom homes to have dual master bedrooms by 2015.

(Nerd note: to satisfy my own statistical curiosity, I want to know precisely what types relationships constitute a couple and how they were found.) Regardless, that seems like a high proportion. The article goes on to explore different reasons why this occurs. They bring up issues of children sleeping in the bed, technology disrupting late nights or early mornings, and other annoyances:

Separate sleepers cite a bevy of reasons for their habit, including apnea, restless leg syndrome, his insistence on watching “SportsCenter,” her need to get up early for yoga. As Barbara Tober, the former chairwoman of the Museum of Arts and Design, told The New York Times recently, “Not that we don’t love each other, but at a certain point you just want your own room.”

To me, this brings up an interesting aspect of modern relationships. Could sleeping together be an antiquated part of relationships that is on its way out? Perhaps trends like getting married later in life are contributing to a people being older and more established when they find a partner, making the idea of just dealing with someone else’s idiosyncrasies unpalatable. Originally, I imagine sleeping together was pretty important because that’s where sex happened (thus the whole sleeping together euphemism I suppose), but it’s hard to say whether or not that still holds. The NYT does later cite a psychiatry professor at University of Minnesota who claims that sex happens more frequently when couples share a bed (not a revolutionary discovery, methinks).

This discussion also makes me curious as to the number of couples who actually both want to sleep in separate beds. I imagine that rarely are both parties completely thrilled about the arrangement. I just imagine that suggestion coming from one person who has specific needs and the other person is just letting it go.

What do you think? Do you think the ideo of sleeping in the same bed is an antiquated idealistic notion? Or do you think these couples are selfishly choosing their own space over the health of their relationships?

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16 thoughts on “More American Couples Sleeping In Separate Beds

  1. My parents don’t officially have separate beds, but they have a guest room that my step-dad often uses. Sometimes they go to bed together but one of them ends up in the guest room by the end of the night. It has absolutely nothing to do with relationship problems. Their preference for separate sleeping stems from the fact that they both snore terribly. They also share their bed with two small dogs and a cat or two, making even a king-sized bed rather crowded.

    A few months ago my mother’s sister came to stay with them for about a month, which meant they couldn’t use their guest bedroom during that time. Sleeping together every night actually seemed to damage their relationship. Neither of them was able to get as much sleep and they argued about things like whether or not to sleep with a fan on at night and so on. Getting a good nights sleep is obviously good for my parents’ relationship.

    I don’t see anything wrong with having separate beds. I have never liked sharing a bed.

    • That’s pretty much exactly the same situation that my parents have. They always go up to bed together, then at about 2am my dad will have woken up and not been able to get back to sleep because of my mums snoring. She has serious ear and sinus issues so not a single snoring remedy works, and it is honestly the weirdest noise you’ve ever heard. There’s no rhythm to her breathing either, it’s like a jet taking off with engine trouble.
      He goes into the spare room, gets back to sleep, then the next night they’ll go up together and do it all over again.

      They always swore that they’d sleep in the same bed, even if only at the beginning of the night, because they both have such busy days they hardly see each other. It must work for them because they’ve been married 30 years next month.

  2. My mom took over my brother’s old bedroom after he moved out for college. My dad snores horribly, and…oh, how shall I phrase this…his room has a bit more of a “lived in” look. So my mom sleeps better and gets a pretty, feminine bedroom for herself. I don’t know how this affects their relationship, but I’m sure it’s better than her going to sleep on the couch when his snoring is too bad.
    My husband and I often sleep in separate beds while on vacation. We’re used to a king-sized at home – plenty of space for each of us. Up North in the summer we’ve got a double bed and spare bedroom with twin beds. Last year it was cold enough for us to share the double bed, but this year it was just too warm. I don’t really like him sleeping in a separate bed, but it’s better than him being cranky from not getting a good nights rest.

  3. Katie – I think you’re onto something about the size of the bed.

    I travel about one week per month, and my wife comes with me about half of the time. We have a king-size bed at home, and have found out that we need at least a queen-size mattress in our hotel room – otherwise, we don’t sleep very well. There’s just not enough room to shift around during the night without poking each other with a knee or an elbow.

    I think I would rather die than not sleep next to my wife on a regular basis, though – and we’ve been married for over twenty-five years. So many things can be communicated through a silent, middle-of-the night hug or caress…

  4. I have slept terribly all of my life. It wasn’t until I started sharing a bed with my bf that I finally started sleeping like a normal person; when I sleep alone I can’t get my brain to shut off and it can take me 3+ hours to fall asleep. No separate beds for me, ever!

  5. My husband and I have been sleeping in separate beds for a few months now, off and on — more on than off, as of late. But you know what? It has nothing to do with the solidarity of our relationship, nor does it cut down on our sexual escapades.

    See, we have an almost-three year-old daughter that I’m rather obsessed with, and I, the overly-doting mother, love to have her next to me when I sleep. Not to mention, but both of us — my daughter and I — love to stretch out expansively when we sleep, and with a third person in the bed, it makes it almost impossible to be comfortable.

    My husband, when he sleeps with us, usually ends up crouched at the very top right-hand side of the bed, and I can’t imagine it’s too fun for him — he’s 6’2″ after all, and though I’m a mere 5’3″, and my daughter’s even smaller, the two of us collectively — and quite successfully, I might add — take up an entire king-sized bed.

    But we’re good with it. Everyone sleeps happy and is well-rested the next morning. As for the sex? Sleeping in separate beds makes it all the more interesting. Why? Because we have to steal away to random parts of the house and be covert about it at odd hours of the morning, afternoon, and night.

    • My husband and I sleep in different beds for the same reason, only my husband sleeps with our son. I started having anxiety attacks after my dad died, and I have them so much less when I sleep well.
      We both decided when he was born to have him sleep with us till he was about 4 if he wants to, so they sleep in another room.

      You’re right about the sex thing. If the boy falls asleep without my husband we’ll have sex in our room. Since my son will invariably wake up if he’s sleeping alone, my husband slips out to go sleep with him afterwards.

      It feels like he’s sneaking in the room to have sex with me. It’s kinda fun!

  6. It would seem to me to be simply different people. For some, the sleeping together is a big thing. For others, sleep is more about rest, and if they can’t get it with someone else in bed, they’re better off alone. As long as the rest of the relationship works, if you prefer to have your sleep separate, I see nothing wrong with it.

  7. I have terrible insomnia, and sleeping with my guy means I don’t sleep as well. I love doing it once a week or so, because I like the closeness. But if it were every day, I’d either get used to it or I’d just need to sleep in a different bed. Has nothing to do with getting along with someone – I just cannot stay asleep even with my medication if there’s someone else in bed with me. The slightest movement will wake me up, resulting in a very poor night’s sleep. Whenever someone else is in bed with me, I’ll wake up at 5 or 6 in the morning wishing they’d get up or something so I can sleep in and catch up on my lost sleep :P

  8. Mm I used to have bad insomnia, but that sort of cleared up except for the taking forever to get to sleep. Needless to say, sex then cuddles fasten the process a lot, and it was taking only an hour during those times. Now again by myself, it is harder to sleep & I spend a lot of time cold!

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  10. My parents sleep in separate beds and I always hated the idea, growing up. I saw it as a lazier form of divorce. Now that I’m grown and married I feel the same way. My wife and I discussed it after reading this and neither of us thought it was healthy to have barriers to affection and intimacy like that.

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