This article by Patia Braithwaite was originally published on SELF.com Dr. Emily Jamea contributes her insight on the topic of sleeping separate from your partner. To read the full article click here.
You’re not alone if the pandemic has unearthed small (or large) relationship irritations. Your partner’s chewing might send you spiraling. Snoring might induce rage. Or, after spending every waking moment together for nearly a year, you might have come to terms with a regrettable truth: You love your live-in partner, but you want a sleep divorce.
What is a sleep divorce, you ask? It’s an arrangement whereby couples decide that they need individual sleeping arrangements (think: separate beds, different sleep times, or entirely different rooms). There are lots of reasons you might need a sleep separation. If one of you works late nights, then sleeping together could involve 3 a.m. disruptions. One of you might have a sleep disorder that makes sleeping in the same bed unpleasant or even unsafe. It’s also possible that you and your partner started sleeping separately for some reason during this pandemic and you discovered that you enjoy the extra bed space.
If you want concrete proof that sleep divorces are useful overall, there hasn’t been much research on the matter (sorry). But it’s clear that some of the issues that might prompt a sleep divorce can definitely be harmful to your rest. For instance, a literature review published in 2016 in Chronobiology International found some evidence that sleeping with someone who snores can have a negative impact on your own sleep quality. The bottom line: There’s more research needed to examine how sleeping together (and separately) impacts overall mental and physical health—but you should do what’s best for you sleep-wise if you can.
We know that proper sleep fuels your overall well-being. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), sleep can help you consolidate memories and rebuild muscle, among a host of other benefits. On the flip side, over time, insufficient sleep can increase the chances of conditions like high blood pressure, depression, and diabetes, according to the NINDS.
Still—even with a good night’s sleep on the line—it can be hard to tell someone that you want to spend every single night away from them. So if you think you want to break up every night (but stay together), we asked a relationship expert for some tips.
Dr. Emily’s tip:
Be gentle in your approach.
If you’re at the point where you’re ready to sleep in separate places, your partner probably knows about your sleep issues. Even so, it can be hard to tell someone you love that you want a sleep divorce, and the truth is you might have feelings about it too. “In most cases, it’s going to be painful for both people that, for whatever reason, you can’t share a bed at night,” Emily Jamea, Ph.D., L.M.F.T., tells SELF. She suggests being honest about any sadness you feel. “When we communicate a change in behavior with empathy … that softens the blow,” she explains.
Read all the tips in the full article.
Looking for more from Dr. Emily – check out her meditations.