Sleeping together: positions, dreams and snoring… we take a deep dive into how sharing a bed impacts your sleep.
You’re sleeping while I’m awake, how could you?
What do you look for in a partner? Here’s a question likely to elicit answers touching on everything from looks and personality to shared interests. But when was the last time you found yourself asking about a person’s sleep habits during a first date? Probably never, but chronotype could be important to deciding on a partner. After all, sharing a bed is one of the biggest parts of a relationship. What if it turns out not to be a circadian match? One day you may find yourself wondering whether to poke your snoring partner or exile them to the couch. Then chronotype will seem more important than sparkly eyes or a shared passion for pineapple pizza.
Sleeping together: When you move, I move
Being in a relationship and sharing a bed is better for your sleep overall since social isolation hinders sleep. But there are two tales of sleep quality.
People report better sleep when they’re snuggled up with a partner than when alone. But love really may be in the sleepy eye of the beholder. Subjective reports of better sleep quality are challenged by objective measures. Co-sleepers think they’re sleeping better but in fact their partner’s nocturnal stirrings make their nights less restorative. Couples sleeping in the same bed move more, pointing to more agitated sleep, and their movements tend to align.
In this case, subjectivity trumps objectivity, even if the reasons why people see co-sleeping through rose-tinted glasses differ. Women say they prefer co-sleeping to solo sleeping because it brings a feeling of security. For men, it’s a preference more out of habit.
Love is a room
Despite the downsides of sharing a bed, there are enough upsides to make it our preference. Bedtime is when we retreat from the world and edge our way into the night. Sharing this experience builds a feeling of intimacy between partners.
Imagine you could eavesdrop on any couple – Barack and Michelle or Beyonce and Jay-Z. Would you choose a mid-morning phone call or a snippet of 4am pillow talk? Couples have different conversations at bedtime or during the night than at any other time.
A man wakes at 2am. He tells his partner: “I dreamt I was walking down a long corridor lined with hammers. A woman started walking towards me. She was holding a frog, who was singing the national anthem of Moldova. They were being followed closely by a fish on a bicycle eating biscuits”. Nobody would be surprised if his partner’s only question were: “The woman, was she cute?”.
From jealousy over dreams to waking up together, co-sleeping is something we don’t want to do without.
Sleeping together: How to be a better cosleeper
So what have we learned? We prefer sleeping together than separately even though we may objectively get better sleep on our own. What can we do to make sure sharing a bed doesn’t keep us from recharging our batteries? Take a three-step approach: identify any obstacles to sleep, decide on how to tackle them and review. For example if teeth grinding is interfering with your rest, try wearing a mouthguard. This will reduce the noise for your partner while lessening damage to your teeth. Your partner could also try wearing earplugs (look no further for a Valentine’s Day gift!). Give yourselves a week or two and then reevaluate the situation. It might take a few tries before you get everything sorted out. In the meantime, remember why you chose to share your sleeping space with this particular person in the first place.