We spend nearly one-third of our lives sleeping. Which is great because without it, we get cranky, irritable, cloudy and tired. In fact, research shows chronic lack of sleep even ages our skin. But what happens when the reason you’re not getting your zzz’s is because of your partner? Maybe they snore, roll around too much or blast the AC. This might just call for a “sleep divorce.” With the help of matrimonial attorney and author of The New Rules of Divorce: 12 Secrets to Protecting Your Wealth, Health, and Happiness, Jacqueline Newman, let us explain.
What’s a “sleep divorce”? Simple: A sleep divorce is when a couple makes the mutual decision that they’re not going to sleep in the same bed for the sake of wellness. That could unfold in myriad ways depending on what the problem is. For instance, if the bed is too soft for one person, maybe they sleep on the couch, pull-out, guest room or perhaps even purchase a new bed. If snoring is the issue, the couple may decide to sleep on different floors of the house. Seems strange? Well, according to a survey commissioned by SleepStandards, sleep divorces are more popular than you think—35 percent of couples interviewed are considering separate beds.
But isn’t sleeping separately bad for marriage? Au contraire! The word “divorce” probably makes you think it’s a bad thing, but according to Newman, a sleep divorce actually restores a lot of marriages and relationships. In fact, the whole point of a sleep divorce is to salvage or at least improve the relationship. If sleeping together means one or both partners is losing sleep, then sharing a bed might actually be bad for the marriage. “Culture says we have to sleep next to each other because of intimacy, but what if all we’re doing is keeping each other awake?” Newman asks.
How is sleeping in separate beds good for a relationship? We’ll let Newman explain: “Everyone’s cranky if you don’t get enough sleep—and you take it out on the people who you hold near and dear, most often your spouse.” If your partner is the reason you’re not getting a solid eight hours, your anger and contempt could escalate to a whole new level. A sleep divorce could prevent these negative emotions from simmering to a boil. When we’re better rested, we’re healthier and happier, making us better partners because we’re able to show up. “If you’re getting along and not fighting, does it really matter if you don’t sleep next to each other at night?” Newman wonders. In fact, she recalls a friend who announced her sleep divorce and then said, “You know what? My husband’s much funnier now.”
But what about sex? If you like your sex with a side of sleep, get it done and then retreat to your preferred sleeping arrangements. Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean your relationship has failed; you’re just at a new stage. “It’s just the practicality of life, it doesn’t mean your marriage is doomed,” explains Newman. For couples just starting out, maybe their partner’s snoring is cute, but the reality is intimacy comes in lots of forms, and if spooning all night isn’t working for you, why not get a good night’s sleep so you can actually enjoy your partner when you’re both awake?
Sold. So, how do I ask for sleep divorce? A healthy sleep divorce means the decision is mutual. Newman advises that the couple has to be on same page. “If one person derives huge amount of comfort from snuggling and connection, weigh your needs. Make the decision together.” And if you’re the partner who isn’t so into a sleep divorce, don’t just dismiss the idea, especially if your partner will experience this as rejection. Instead, like every other aspect of your marriage, make sure to communicate, be vocal, address needs and make compromises. Divorce granted.