Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Dismaying Story #48: Separate Sleepers
How often do you hear of couples living in separate bedrooms? I do hear stories of older couples with separate beds, but usually in the same room and it's usually for health reasons, isn't it?
Well, we are a young couple (barely 30) doing just that. We each have our own bedroom and we both love it. We have been married eight years this September and our separate rooms didn't start intentionally. My husband has always snored and HAS to have the TV on to sleep. I have never been able to sleep through that, but had somewhat adjusted to it.
We planned our second child to be born around the time my mom was moving out of our house so he could have his own room. Well, she never moved out and he stayed in our room. This child wouldn't sleep and kept us both up. So after several months, my husband mentioned sleeping on the couch to see if the TV bothered our son. It worked! Our son slept longer that night than he had in a long time. So, my husband stayed on the couch. When my mom moved out he moved into her room and has been there ever since.
I now get sleep like I haven't had in many years. No more arguing about the TV volume or channel, no listening to him snore (it's gotten worse) and I don't have to share the bed. Why would I give that up?
The few friends that we have told about this situation cannot believe we live like this. Is it really that unusual? Would it jeopardize our marriage as some people say? What about when my boys are old enough to understand? How do I explain it to them?
Otherwise, we strive to have a happy, as close to normal as possible relationship.
Signed, Rested and Happy
I know people who would find it extremely difficult to feel close if they slept separately, and I suspect some of the readers' comments in reaction to this post will reflect the same emotional need to be together. Some couples like this will put up with a considerable degree of sleep disturbance to achieve the closeness and will consider that to be a worthwhile tradeoff. (And, of course, many couples are able to sleep together without keeping each other awake.)
Sleep disturbance, however, can be a source of tension between spouses. Snoring, fidgeting or kicking while asleep, frequent bathroom visits, sleeping with the TV on -- any of these can contribute to sleep deprivation for the affected spouse. Tired, cranky people do not always get along with each other as well as they might when rested and refreshed.
Snoring is perhaps the most commonly reported disturbance. A University of North Carolina study shows that approximately 30 percent of women and 40 percent of men are habitual snorers. Moreover, according to a 1999 book entitled The Snoring Cure, by age 60 this increases to 40 percent of women and 60 percent of men. Another study by British researchers found that sleep disturbances caused by secondhand snoring often lead to rifts between partners (such as rarely having sex) and 70 percent of snoring couples resorted to sleeping in separate rooms.
The reasons for this are understandable. We all know how horrible it feels to be exhausted, especially if you live that way on an ongoing basis. People whose spouses prevent them from sleeping often dread going to bed and may even build up resentment toward their partners. The snorer may also be embarrassed, much as they would if they had a problem like bad breath that led to difficulties with their partner.
Given that there may be practical reasons for sleeping apart, does this necessarily lead to a lessening of intimacy and closeness? According to Canadian author and sex columnist Josey Vogels, the answer is a resounding "no." She points out that while sleeping in separate bedrooms has the potential to strain a relationship, couples can more than make up for it by paying attention to each other while awake.
We all know that "sleeping together" involves more than just sleeping. We read together, talk, make love and cuddle, all of which can help to build closeness. None of these, however, happen while we are asleep. Vogels maintains that the time spent asleep is the least important in terms of your relationship. She speaks from first-hand experience, too, since she often retreats to the spare bedroom because of her husband's snoring. She recommends spending some time together in bed together before separating for sleep, and suggests that surprise visits can add to the spice.
You are right to think of your children's views. Show plenty of affection for each other when they are around. Show them and tell them how much you love each other and explain that the sleeping arrangements are simply so you can get a good night's rest. They will take their emotional cues from you. Reassure them in a happy way that all is well and they should have no problem accepting this as a normal part of your life.
The results are what matter the most. If you and your husband are getting along well and the intimate side of your relationship is in good shape, then don't fix what isn't broken.
All the best,