No One Does…Do You?

I got an email yesterday which I guess was spawned by Monday’s little discussion about relationships. The writer of this email, (let’s call her Colette) asked if I could get some feedback from people about something relationship-related that she’s kind of wondering about. And, since I had nothing else planned for today that can’t wait, I figured I’d get right to it.

Colette and her husband have recently decided to sleep in separate bedrooms because one of them snores and doesn’t want to keep the other one up. I know a few couples who have decided to sleep in separate bedrooms for various reasons. Some because they can’t stand the sight, smell or touch of each other anymore but also can’t afford to get divorced. Some for the same sorts of reasons as Colette – snoring; teeth grinding; tossing and turning; one likes the window open, one likes it shut; one likes a firm mattress, one likes a soft one; Dutch ovens, etc.

My parents got separate beds halfway through their marriage because my mum was sick of my dad scratching her with his toe-nails which he didn’t cut often enough. I like having a bed (and a bedroom) to myself, too. No matter how fond I am of someone, I hate having to adjust my quirky sleep style to accommodate another person. Nor do I enjoy listening to someone else’s sleep noises or being pawed or breathed on when I’m trying to sleep.

Zoom, on the other hand, thinks that bed cuddling stuff is the best part of her day – the closeness, the intimacy, the comfort of lying next to someone as they sleep. Lots of people would agree with her. Only 12% of couples do not sleep in the same bed. Aside from sleeping and nightly romping, a couple’s bed also serves as a refuge from the kids, a place to talk over the day in private, to cuddle, and for easy morning roll-over sex.

Despite what’s depicted in old TV shows and movies, couples have been sharing a bed since forever. In fact, back in the 18th and 19th centuries it was traditional even for unmarried couples who were thinking of maybe getting married, to share a bed to see if they would be compatible sleeping together. No sex was allowed though.

They called it “bundling” and had a variety of devices to stop the couple from accidentally coupling – planks or boards slotted halfway down the middle of the bed, for instance. The most popular anti-coupling device though was the “bundling bag”, which was a bag they stuffed the woman in which she could lace up from the inside, but no one could get into from the outside.

Oddly, “bundling” resulted in a great many pregnancies and shot-gun marriages. I believe this is where our phone/internet/cable providers got the term. You think you’re getting this good deal, but they manage to find a way to screw you regardless.

So anyway, back to Colette. What do you think? Do couples need to share a bed to keep intimacy in their relationship? Or is a relationship sometimes healthier if a couple doesn’t share a bed? If you hear about a couple who sleeps in separate bedrooms, do you assume there is something not right between them? What’s your situation? And/or what would you prefer your situation to be?

Colette, Paul,  Odia and I thank you for your input and wish you a happy and restful weekend.


35 responses to “No One Does…Do You?

  1. I like the non-sleep-related aspects of a shared bed, but would prefer to actually sleep alone (cat excepted most of the time and naps don’t count). I don’t sleep very well if there is another person in the bed, or sometimes even just in the same room (especially if they snore). And I have to say the times I felt most alone have not been times when I was actually alone, but rather were times when I was lying awake next to someone who was sleeping.

    I think I’d have to have a bolt hole of a spare bedroom to retreat to when sharing the bed got to be too much.

  2. It makes sense to me to have separate bedrooms, whether there are sleep compatibility issues or no. What if you’re just having a restless night? What if it’s mid-August and bloody hot?

    To me, having separate bedrooms means you can *choose* to sleep together.

    Collette and Paul could maybe start their nights together and then whenever the snoring got too much, whoever it was could sneak off to their bedroom and finish the night with a sound sleep.

  3. I have trouble sleeping if my husband’s not in bed with me. I like cuddling up and chatting for a while before we fall asleep. I like the fact that he warms my perpetually cold toes and doesn’t even complain about how cold they are!

    I’m a pretty heavy sleeper, though, so I don’t tend to be bothered by my partner snoring (not that he’d ever do that–heavens no) or turning over or coughing. I have a good friend who has had a terrible time sleeping her whole life. She and her husband sleep in separate rooms most of the time so that she can be sure of a good sleep. It seems to work fine for them.

  4. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with sleeping in seperate beds for snoring reasons. I think that the couple should try to solve the snoring problem before they do it.
    A. used to snore. I had a few sleepless nights in a row one week and considered sleeping in a seperate room. We decided to try Breath Rights. They solved the problem. For now.

    His parents don’t sleep in the same bed. They both snore and wake each other up. It seems to be working well for them.

    I personally like sleeping in the same bed with someone. I would try everything, to solve the problem, before deciding to sleep in seperate beds.

  5. Beds with another person in them are for sex. Nothing wrong with that in fact I like it.
    Beds with one person in them are for sleeping. Nothing wrong with that in fact I like it.
    More and more the sleeping takes priority as I get older.

  6. Sleeping alone is proven to get you a better sleep. I saw a news report on it once that said eventually the whole separate bed/room thing will be the norm.

    We got a king size bed in order to get better sleep. It works for us since I’m just not a cuddler.

    I think it definitely helps the intimacy side of a relationship but it doesn’t have to be the kiss of death if you have separate beds.

  7. Sleeping in the same bed as my BH and the puppy can be tough… BH sleeps on the diagonal, and Morty sleeps on my head. I do like sharing the bed with them though, strangely, so I’m saving up to buy a kind-sized bed next year. So. Much. Space. And then I can roll over and cuddle if need be.

  8. Louise – Thanks for noticing the missing bit!. I think I was going to say that it’s always nice if the recreational part of the relationship takes place somewhere other than the bed you’re going to sleep in so that you can sleep in clean, crisp sheets instead of tangled smelly sweaty ones.

    Megan – I’d go even further and say that a relationship could be a lot stronger if you didn’t even have to share a house. If all those mundane domestic issues that people squabble about were completely taken out of the equation and you only got together when you were relaxed and could enjoy each other.

    Mary Lynn – Awwww – that’s sweet. Maybe your husband likes to have his toes cooled off during the night? In which case you’re a perfect match!

    J – That’s a good point. Snoring isn’t really a good thing for the snorer either – could lead to or be sleep apnea.

    Bandobras – Well, if old folks don’t get their sleep there’s not much else they’ll be able to get up to.

    Skygirl – I wonder if sleeping separate will become the norm if only 12% are currently doing it. We’ll need much bigger homes for one thing — not everyone has enough bedrooms. I suspect a lot of people are just sleeping together because they don’t have the space for anything else..

    Stella – Bazel sleeps with me, too, most of the time. But he’s very considerate. He keeps himself fairly small and very still. He has a little spot on the way down at the left end of the bed where he stays all night. He grumbles once in a while if I flail around too much and if I do a lot of tossing and turning he storms off in a huff and sleeps on the sofa in the living room. Just a warning about the king bed — it will become just as full as whatever you’re sleeping in now. People and animals tend to expand to fill their environment.

  9. I like sleeping with someone, but I also love when I get to have the bed to myself now and then.

    This being said, if you have the space and you actually sleep better alone and both partners are ok with it, why not. Nothing precludes starting the evening together in the same bed.

  10. One of the longest Hollywood marriages, that of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward is testament to having own bedrooms. It wasn’t that they didn’t have sex- they apparently treated it as more of an event meaning that one would visit the other’s room for the occasion. But beds were for sleeping in, and moreover having restful sleep.

    I think that sounds like a perfect arrangement. I would love my own bedroom sometimes. I would like my room to not have bunched socks and underpants lying on the floor, i would like my wardrobe not to have shirts hung haphazardly on the OUTSIDE and 50 million guitar plectrums and loose change strewn over the top of the chest of drawers. I like having the bed to myself when my husband is away because it’s less snory and I get to lie star shaped.

    Unfortunately separate rooms signifies that something terrible has happened to a marriage. And I would miss out on those just before you go to sleep conversations that i think help me overcome annoyance at socks, shirts, snoring and plectrums.

  11. Currently my wife and I are sleeping in seperate rooms. Unfortunately this is not exactly by choice. My wife has a sinus issue that is easily controlled though medication, but she in now 6 months pregnant and obviously not taking medication. I’m a very light sleepier, and although I don’t mind her getting up in the night to go to the bathroom, the perpetual nose blowing and snoring makes it impossible to sleep(I’ve tried every ear plug you can imagine too.)

    Anyways, a few weeks back we found ourselves in Montreal without a second bedroom and as I driffed off to sleep I was realised how much I missed being able to reach out and touch her and having her do the same. Of course an hour later I was wide awake wishing I had anoughter room to go to.

    Anyway, come september I get the double bonus of a baby and getting go back to the comfy bed with my wife.

  12. I think sleeping together is at least one way you connect with your partner everyday. But I too, like uninterrupted sleep.

    A close friend of mine hasn’t slept in the same bed with her husband in five years and they hated each other long before that. I think I’d hock my teeth to get out of that kind of situation but I don’t run the world.

  13. Well here in Oregon . . . ha, just kidding!

    Get a really big bed, extra blankets, and a pair of ear plugs – that way the snoring, tossing and turning, and teeth grinding become mere inconveniences, not deal breakers.

  14. Jazz- Not just “someone” though, right? Mr. Jazz in particular, I’m guessing?

    MisssyM – You could get walkie-talkies and still have the conversation, but from your own rooms. Get the kids to double up and one of you take over their room. You’re paying the mortgage, you should get your pick of the living space, am I right? I love my bedroom. It’s my little oasis from the world.

    MG – Ha ha, you’re so funny thinking you’re ever going to have another comfortable moment in bed with your wife once the baby arrives! One or the other of you will be up every few hours feeding and burping. Neither of you will get more than an hour of sleep every night. Also, if she’s breastfeeding she won’t be able to take her meds.

    Lola – I think I agree, but people get accustomed to being a couple even if they hate each other and they end up having so much of their lives entwined that the thought of separating is exhausting.

    Dave – Ha ha. I figured you were going to tell me how no one in Portland has any trouble sleeping and how couples sleep together in twin beds in Portland or something. Good old Portland. BTW, those “nconveniences”can drive people crazy, especially when they’re sleep deprived

  15. “I’d go even further and say that a relationship could be a lot stronger if you didn’t even have to share a house. If all those mundane domestic issues that people squabble about were completely taken out of the equation and you only got together when you were relaxed and could enjoy each other.”

    This is certainly true in our world. Sometimes knowing I have an Out is as good as actually using it.

    I think the 12% figure is likely to be a figure of how many will *admit* they have unusual sleeping arrangements more than a scientific measure of how many people practice it. People are strangely resistant to pointing out their differences with other people, even when it shouldn’t matter, don’t you find? Especially the type to take surveys, which I’m not.

    I don’t see how the physical sleeping arrangements in a couple can be telling of intimacy. As you already pointed out, there are a whole host of reasons *why* a couple sleeps together or not. And intimacy – against popular fiction! – does not occur only in one special room in the house. If it does, then maybe you *are* in trouble.

    Aren’t couples who are confident in their intimacy and compatibility the ones who are simply willing to do what works for them without regard to what someone *else* might think of it? It really never occurred to me to be interested in how choices I make in my home might affect someone’s opinion of me. I’m not going to wear puff-painted sweatshirts or buy supermarket deli pies to take to potlucks for instance, but I’m not going to complain if others do these things … I’m certainly not going to buy a matching shirt, and I’ll politely refuse the bad pie. That’s as far as I need to go with it.

    If someone asks me in detail about my preferences, I’ll go into it for the sake of conversation. But even when I don’t understand it (like with the pies – damn, those are some baaaad pies!) I don’t have to get mean about it. And anyway, I can make my own (much better) pie for myself when I want one.

    I don’t hesitate to propose alternatives when people complain that they’re not getting rest, for instance – ‘Why don’t you get your own bed?’ If G and I were sharing a car and it wasn’t working out, I wouldn’t hesitate to consider getting another form of transportation. I mean, maybe based on cost – but not under the assumption that we’d lose intimacy for it. (He uses the back seat like his personal landfill, which makes me crazy.)

    What I *do* think is very odd about some folks is if they refuse to change something in their own homes to suit themselves based only (or chiefly, or really even partly) on what someone else may think of it. THAT boggles my mind.

  16. I’ve gotta tell ya, I like having the option of having another bed to go to sometimes. My husband is one of those snuggler types and I’m not. I like having a little room…a little space to stretch out and sleep.

    Before my husband lost 50 pounds he snored like a freight train and it was ruining my sleep—and he ended up kicked and pushed more than once. The only way to get a good night’s sleep was for me to go down the hall. I kind of felt bad because I liked it so much, but I honestly think our relationship was stronger because of it—mostly because it kept me from putting a pillow over his face!

  17. After being in a long term relationship I can totally understand separate beds or bedrooms. We both, Sparky and I, have had our sleep issues in the past and we still have snoring issues now. Sometimes sleeping on the couch or in another room is an act of love for your partner, not a slight.

  18. I think it all depends on who you share your bed with. I’m a hardcore night owl, always have been. So normally I’m only in bed with the Mr. for a few hours at most. If I go in too early he wakes me up all night poking and pushing at me because I am the one who snores. Also, whoever invented the snooze button should be shot. His alarm wakes me no less than three separate times each morning. Now on the other hand, when he is out of town, my little boy sleeps with me and we sleep very well. We snuggle all night long and get a full 8 hours and wake up happy. Little man is a deep sleeper who doesn’t hear me snore and somehow unconsciously makes sure some part of him, even if it’s just a foot touches me all night. And since he is my little soul mate, that makes me very happy indeed. Sadly, someday he will object to the bed swap when his Dad is out of town.

  19. I’m glad you brought this up. Last November I started sleeping in the guest bed. I had started snoring (and the nasal strips didn’t work) and was waking up my sweet husband who is the sole breadwinner of the family and needs his sleep. Also because I am a night owl, I was waking him up just going to bed some nights. This has worked out really well for me also because I am extremely hot natured and because my husband likes “white noise” when he sleeps and sometimes the fan that he runs in there all night would sound like a jet engine to me. My first night in my own bed was so peacefully quiet, I fell asleep in just seconds. Although I’m really not one to care about what other people think, I didn’t want anyone to worry about us thinking like Missy does that it signifies something bad, because I used to think the same thing. But in our case it has worked out great and has nothing to do with our intimacy. Thanks for the topic!

  20. When I was in a relationship, actually living with someone, the best part of the day was to go to bed together. Just talking before bed, or laughing always made everything feel better with the world. When I would wake up in the middle of the night it was comforting to see them and be near them. I liked to listen to them breathing it would lull me back to sleep. I lucked out and they didn’t snore or if they did I don’t remember.

    I really think you have to love someone to sleep with them. Other people in my life that I have slept with I found the situation to be uncomfortable and annoying at times.
    Sorry… forgot to say great post – can’t wait to read your next one!

  21. AuntieHallie- I’m not getting the whole “pie” and “puff painted sweatshirt” references, but I don’t think the person who emailed me was looking for validation. Just maybe suggesting a post topic that she would be interested in getting some other feedback on – not that this was going to influence her decision in any way. I think she was just wondering.

    Mo – Yes, homicide usually does tend to mark the end of an otherwise wonderful relationship. I hope 50 pounds less of hubby has improved things?

    Dr. Monkey – Thank you for that official medical opinion. Personally I can’t think of anything worse than sharing a bed with someone you don’t happen to want to share a bed with at that particular time.

    Charlene – I’m sure keeping your son in bed with you until he’s 20 is a perfectly healthy thing to do!! But ya, what is the snooze button, anyway? Get up or don’t get up. Nevermind this, I’ll get up in 5 minutes if you remind me again thing. Sheesh.

    Geewits – Ah, yes, the joys of your own bed. I think the gist of the comments is – whatever makes you happy and works for you. And I don’t think MisssyM meant that as her opinion, just as the opinion that some people might have.

    Cedar – Thank you. You and Zoom have a lot in common. The cozying up in bed together has never ever been my favourite part of any relationship, but I fully support your right to feel that way.

  22. I totally like the idea of separate beds, separate bedrooms and even separate homes. Especially the separate homes. There is something exciting yet comforting about having two homes – each would have a certain feel and add a bit of variety. I’ve gotten so used to having an erratic sleep/work schedule that having to sleep in a bed with anyone other than my cat would just be too disasterous to bear thinking about (and I’d probably be thinking not sleeping).

  23. To each, his own. Nothing wrong with separate beds if that is what works for you. But for me, I love sleeping with my wife. Both of us think it is one of the most enjoyable thing in our lives. There are some rules though, like I sleep facing away from her until she is deep asleep on account of my snoring.

  24. @XUP
    oh dear, i’m reading back and this sounds a lot snottier than i meant. but i was just riffing off the questions in general, not regarding Collette’s situation in particular – which not much information is given about. I had the impression you were just feeling out the topic generally, so everything I said was meant to be a generalization.

    I myself think sleeping apart makes sense in our household because of who we are, not because of how much we care about each other. And in general, I don’t care what people think of it! LOL but I also don’t expect people to care about things I like or don’t like, with regard to other things that are personal – like food and fashion preferences. Sure, *I* think puff painted clothing and supermarket deli food are awful (for instance), but to someone who *does* like those things, my opinion doesn’t matter. And shouldn’t.

    Essentially I think any couple should do what makes sense for *them* and screw what anyone else thinks. (Picking apart the 12% figure was snotty of me. But what percentage of people who’re asked answer such nosy questions honestly anyway?) But I would be very surprised if anyone in my life thought I was judging them, as I’m often the crazy outlier in any bell curve of people with preferences on anything.

  25. I’m thinking I shouldn’t comment in general before the caffeine has begun to sink in for the day. Being on the west coast puts me at a sort of disadvantage there.

  26. i love lola’s “i’d hock my teeth”, maded me laugh!

    i’m not against married couples living in separate houses so separate beds aren’t an issue for me i guess 🙂

    i think whatever feels right to the couple is whatever is right for them. i snore and grind my teeth and the husband has complained of not sleeping well with it.

    it is a good way to continue intimacy in a partnership, continuing with the commitment of marriage.

  27. Violetsky – I know exactly what you mean. Even my cat gets fed up with my sleep schedule and habits sometimes!

    LGS – See, now I wouldn’t be able to sleep at all if I knew I wasn’t allowed to turn over for a while. It would be all I could think about…can’t turn over…can’t turn over… and I’d get all uncomfortable and agitated and then wouldn’t be able to sleep all night. But I’m glad it works for you.

    AuntieHallie – Don’t worry about it. I don’t think anyone here is that hypersensitive. I don’t think anyone hypersensitive would read my blog for very long. Colette for sure is going to do what’s right for her no matter what other people might say. She was just curious to see what sort of arrangements other couples had. And, I still don’t know what puff painted clothing is, though.

    Leah – Ya, I don’t think the question was so much if we thought it was right or wrong, just a general survey on whether people enjoyed sleeping together or not and/or what others out there are doing

  28. I’m surprised no one has mentioned the dreaded dead arm syndrome. This is caused when you think it will be nice to snuggle and hug your significant,(at least for the moment other), and fall asleep with your arm gently cradling her head only to wake later to find your arm has died from lack of blood flow and you have to go get a new one in the morning.
    Even with universal health care that can get expensive.
    By the way the Queen and Phil have slept apart for over 50 years and as I always say if it’s good enough for Liz it’s good enough for me.

  29. When given the opportunity, I prefer sleeping together but it must be a large enough bed that we can have room, if desired. But I have always enjoyed falling asleep to the gentle breathing of someone beside me.

    That said, I’ve never slept with a snorer so if that should happen, I may negate everything said here. 🙂

  30. re: puff paint

    here is a cautionary (and hilarious) tale on the wardrobe of
    someone still traumatized by the 1980’s. as she rightly should be:

    if you read through to the bottom, you’ll see a damning remark from her dad. which i interpreted to mean, ‘even if you really love something, you may live to regret it.’

    hmm. food for thought.

    i have not yet regretted getting my sleep, but i suppose if SuperG and i ever split up, there will be people who point to our sleep habits as evidence that we were never really meant for each other or something. i’m willing to live with that. no one else really knows all the *rest* of the shit i/we have put up with of each other’s, so. HA!

  31. I find it an odd sort of sleep if The Man isn’t in the bed. (Usually one of us takes the couch if the other sick or something.) Once in a while I do enjoy though. We are snugglers, and well, I really miss him if I don’t get my night time snuggle even if he’s sleeping next to me.

    As for seperate homes, it would be silly. You can’t have daily snuggles if you don’t live together. 😛 And if you are, then what the hell is the point in doubling the rent.

  32. Re: Geewits comment: Yes, to clarify – XUP is right- I wasn’t saying that I thought having separate beds was an indication that a marriage is in trouble. What i was trying to say was that I think the perceived view is that couples with separate beds have suffered a rift of some kind and that’s why couples have such a problem with justifying a different bed decision .

    These comments certainly indicate that this is not always the case. Beds are for so much more than cementing marital relations sexually. In fact, if you are getting no sleep for all the wrong reasons a shared bed could mean more marital problems.

  33. Bandobras – I thought they slept apart because Phil’s gay?

    Debra – What if they’re “gently breathing” onto the back of your neck or in your face? I find that irritating.

    Hallie – What great photos! I always try to take pictures of my daughters crazy outfits too so I can show them to her and laugh when she’s older. I make careful notes to the effect that I DID try to talk her out of whatever she has on.

    Nat – I could make a case for separate homes while still maintaining a committed relationship, but it’s obviously not something too many people would choose. Also I guess it’s whatever you get used to.

    MisssyM – Indeed!

  34. i didnt read all the comments here so if i am repeating something someone else says then .. oh well.

    if snoring is truly the ONLY issue, get those nose strips and blammo. snoring stops. i know they work because we have had to buy them for noisy campers with my mom in previous years. one of the tenters would snore so loudly that was with us it would even keep my mom awake in her trailer.

    but then again, if they have just gone to being roommates without trying anything else i would say it sounds like other stuff is going on and they need to work on them and not the snoring issue (excuse?).

    i sleep alone most nights but i sleep like a baby when Raspy is here. we talk and giggle and snuggle and its just a really lovely time.

  35. jo and i are now at the separate blanket stage – apparently i hog them and he has a terrible nights sleep, so we now have our own blankies. and the minute he snores (usuall a result of a night of drinking) he is out of there. i have no problem with separate bedrooms. sleep is wayyy too precious.