It seems counterintuitive, but recent data says that sleeping apart might be a good thing.
by Gigi Engle
I don’t know about you, but if my partner wanted to sleep in a different room, I would be pretty upset. Like, why are we getting married if you don’t want snuggles?
Sleeping apart and having a healthy relationship seem very counterintuitive. When you think about being in an intimate relationship, sleeping in the same bed is sort of an assumed factor.
Yet, data shows that sleeping in different beds can be good for a relationship. It’s all very confusing.
A new UK study conducted by Bensons For Beds found that nearly a third of people sleep in separate rooms than their partner. 34 percent of people who said they slept in different rooms report having better quality sex, while only 24 percent of separate sleepers reported having less sex. Additionally, 38 percent of participants said sleeping apart improved their relationship quality overall.
And get this, 16 percent of study participants reported that sleeping separately upped the ante on sex so much that they had taken to getting busy in different rooms all over the house.
So, is sleeping apart good for your sex life or bad for your sex life? This is a definitive exploration.
Sleep is a big deal when it comes to sex
What we really have to understand when looking at studies on sleep, sex, and relationships is how sleep quality impacts overall relationship health.
“The quality and quantity of sleep that you get has an impact on your hormones, which in turn, has a direct effect on your sex life,” says Caleb Backe, a certified health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics. “When you experience a lack of sleep, your dopamine receptors aren’t able to function properly, which has a direct impact on your libido. Ironically, sex releases oxytocin which helps your body to reduce stress and aids sleep.” No sex, no sleep; no sleep, no sex.
“Lack of sleep has been found to lower the sex drive in women and in men. Less sleep equals lower testosterone levels. Lower testosterone can reduce libido and may negatively impact reproductive health. In other words, good sleep is definitely good for your sex life and your well-being.” explains Amy Ziff, Founder of MADE SAFE.
Basically, if you’re not sleeping well, your sex life will suffer. So, while it may seem absurd to you that sleeping away from your partner could make you happier in the relationship, it is worth asking how poor sleep can negatively impact you as well.
Why couples sleep apart
The biggest culprit of relational disconnect in regards to sleep is snoring. 40 percent of British couples in the study reported to sleeping separately, and 51 percent said it was because of their partners' snoring.
Snoring can sometimes be a sign of bigger health issues and should be addressed with your doctor. “A partner with sleep apnea may snore loudly or in cases where a CPAP machine is necessary, the sound may be distracting. Insomnia is often due to issues of stress, jet lag, lack of exercise, anxiety, and depression,” says Jessica Hagen, one of Sleep Club’s Dream Team of expert.
Another big reason couples sleep apart? The temperature of your room and your bed. Research shows that the optimum temperature for a good night’s sleep is about 70 degrees. I don’t know about your situation, but my partner makes the bed an inferno. It’s like his body is covered in heating blankets. This is why I have to sleep with several inches between us in bed. If I touch him, I will be on fire.
Why it works for some people
If you’re a person who is woken up by your partner’s snoring, sleeping apart would probably improve your sex life. If you’re not being woken up in the night, you’ll be less cranky and better rested. When you’re well-rested, your libido improves.
“Because your sleep quality affects your overall mood, it follows that you're less likely to experience relationship conflicts if you sleep better on your own,” Backe says. “Moreover, if you’re experiencing a lack of sleep due to interference from you partner, then sleeping separately can reduce the resentment that you feel from a lack of sleep caused by your partner.”
So, it might not be sleeping apart that is the factor for better sex, but the sleeping apart acts as a catalyst for better rested partners. Better sleep = better sex.
When it can be a destructive force
With all of that said, there is a case to be made for sleeping in the same bed, the case we’re probably all familiar with. Sleeping in the same bed builds intimacy and connectedness with romantic partners. So, if you’re in different rooms, there can be a psychological disconnect.
Sleeping together “creates a closeness and connection that you don’t get throughout your busy days,” Blake explains. “This connection is lost when you start sleeping separately, which can then have a damaging effect on your relationship.”
Hagen says that even though sleeping apart may be good for some couples, the intimacy and closeness should be made up in other ways. “Often, when two people sleep next to each other, there is a connectivity that occurs. When you’re sleeping in the middle of the night and roll over and physically feel your partner next to you, it can be very comforting.”
The point is, sleeping in different rooms can be good for your relationship, sex life, and help you sleep more soundly, but this means extra work needs to be put in elsewhere. Relationships take work and removing a factor that breeds closeness can be harmful if you’re not being mindful.
Communication is key here. You have to sit down with your partner and figure out alternative ways for the two of you to feel close to one another.
Otherwise, sleeping apart may lead to permanent separation.
Gigi Engle is a certified sex coach, sexologist, educator, and writer living in Chicago. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @GigiEngle.