Can a ‘sleep divorce’ help couples with clashing bedtime habits?


Their relationship also thrived. While the couple initially worried this new arrangement could be a sign their relationship was deteriorating, Selena reports that it’s “as strong as ever”.

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The couple, who are “childless by choice”, still spend their evenings together in the main bedroom, watching Netflix or reading, before Selena pads off to the spare room. “Sex still happens, whenever, wherever it wants to,” she adds.

Overall, the outcome of their choice has been nothing but positive. “Good sleep is critical for each individual’s happiness and sanity,” Selena notes, “which in turn is good for the relationship.”

Selena and Rick are among a growing group of people who have cottoned on to the benefits of a “sleep divorce” – the desire to stay together as a couple while embracing separate sleeping spaces.

Psychologist Sharon Draper says there are a number of reasons for its popularity. “Sleep issues are increasing, everyone is tired, and we know that sleep hugely impacts the way we feel. [A sleep divorce] is just another way to help lessen the impact of stress.”

Sleeping separately can lead to a clearer mind and better health, she says, as you’re more likely to exercise and choose healthier foods when you’re not chronically fatigued. You’re also less likely to irritable if you’re not on the brink of exhaustion.

Sleep consultant and co-founder of Sleep Hub, Dr David Cunnington, says sleeping in separate rooms makes sense. That’s because each individual varies in the amount of sleep they need, what time they sleep best, and the temperature they prefer for slumber.

A sleep divorce allows people to go to bed at a time that suits them, and tailor their sleep environment to their own needs. Even if you’re not compatible sleepers, Cunnington says you can still share a bed – as long as you’re both willing to compromise.

He says trying to go to bed around the same time as your partner, or getting used to heavier or lighter bedding than you’d prefer, can help in certain circumstances. But if your problems relate to issues such as restlessness or snoring, he concedes that sleeping apart has its merits.

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Draper advises bringing up the topic with your partner in an honest, positive light: “Identify how your sleep is getting negatively impacted but remember, it isn’t an accusatory discussion. It’s just a discussion explaining that you’d like to give sleeping separately a try to see if it helps with your sleep.”

If you do take that leap, prioritise intimacy. “Make sure you still have one-on-one time together, and even schedule sex if you need to,” she says.

Lastly, Draper says, it’s vital to remember that a sleep divorce isn’t a reflection of your closeness as a couple: “It has nothing to do with your relationship or your feelings towards your partner, and everything to do with your quality of sleep.”

*Names have been changed.

This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale June 16.

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