Morning person? Night owl? How to align your sleep patterns in your marriage

In many marriages, one spouse might be a night owl while the other is a morning person. This means each partner is at his or her best at different times, leaving the other frustrated or lonesome. Here are some practical ideas to resolve this issue.

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  • The scene is a familiar one. The alarm sounds, and after shutting it off, I roll over and snuggle into my husband’s chest. “Good morning, love,” I say, rubbing my eyes and smiling. “How did you sleep?”

  • “Mrghg, rffm,” he replies.

  • Yes, I am a morning person, and my husband is not. This was one of our biggest conflicts in the early months of our marriage because we never seemed to be cheerful and alert at the same time. After a lot of conversations (not to mention trial and error) we’ve accommodated each other so it’s hardly an issue at all anymore. Here are some ideas that we learned while working through this issue.

  • Admit you have a problem

  • I know, I know, this sounds like a 12-step plan. But honestly, bringing up that you’re confident your early mornings or late nights could run more smoothly really is the first step to actually making them that way. Too many spouses are content to just leave things alone despite their dissatisfaction. Inviting your spouse to help you with a problem you’re having, even when it has to do with him or her, helps both of you to feel like you are on the same team. Just make sure you bring it up with a sincere desire to help your spouse and come to love him or her more.

  • Discuss and adjust your expectations

  • Chances are, your expectations are very different from your spouse’s. For example, I expected my husband to get up with me and keep me company while I made breakfast. He, on the other hand, expected me to call him when it was ready because he was too sleepy to be useful. After discussing it, we realized we would both be happy if he curled up on the couch and I chatted with him while we waited for the toaster.

  • Perhaps your spouse would be happier if you didn’t talk to him or her immediately after waking up. Maybe you would appreciate it if your spouse helped your kindergartener get dressed for school. These desires often become expectations, and when those expectations fail to be met, we get upset. By discussing what you hope your mornings will look like, you and your spouse become more aware of how you can make each other happy. Be ready to act on what you learn.

  • Try addressing the biggest obstacles

  • What are your spouse’s biggest obstacles to getting out of bed? Ask, and do something about it. My husband, for example, would find it so much easier to get up if everywhere in our house was the same temperature as our nice, toasty bed. While it’s not practical to keep the apartment at 85 degrees, we did put a heater in the bedroom for me to turn on when I wake up. That way, starting the day is not nearly so daunting for him, and I know I’ve done something to help.

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  • On the other hand, maybe eating a later dinner will help your morning person stay alert past 10 p.m. You’ll have to decide together if the goal is getting up early or staying up late, but either way, experiment with methods of helping the spouse who is struggling to be alert at that time. Absorbing projects, caffeine, or food right before bed may interfere with getting to sleep, and no one wants to get out of bed when they don’t feel rested.

  • Consider your circumstances. Lately, I've been encouraging my husband to look into working from home. Not only could he set his own goals, but he could get up whenever he feels like it. After all, I don't care how he supports our family, just that he does it and enjoys it. With a change of context, things that were once a source of tension are suddenly neutralized or better yet, become strengths. For example, once we have children, his night owl tendencies become the perfect counterpoint to my early morning energy. I will be happy to get up with the kids while he sleeps, and he can put them to bed while I wind down for the day! Moral of the story? Look for the ways that your spouse's differences make your life better. You may just find yourself feeling grateful instead of irritated.

  • No matter how you go about improving your morning routine, remember, both spouses need to practice gentleness. After all, who wants to start every day feeling irritated with the person you’ve chosen to spend your life with? When my husband and I discussed it, it was with love and openness, as well as faith that we could figure things out. This attitude bodes well in any marriage, for any conflict, not just differing sleep patterns. So tomorrow morning, roll over and give your spouse a kiss, and make it a better day.

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Sara Hagmann is a stay-at-home wife and writer who loves traveling, cooking, and kissing her husband. A lot.

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