When you think about a married couple sleeping in separate beds you probably jump to some very negative conclusions. Maybe he forgot their anniversary, said something offensive or just ate way too much chili for dinner. He must be in the doghouse for something, right?
Well, that's not entirely true. A study done by Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, reveals that about 35% of couples do not sleep in the same bed. Colleen Carney is the author of the study and says that separate beds actually have a positive effect on the relationship.
What sleeping in the same bed does to your brain
Carney conducted brain scans on study participants and found that couples that slept in the same bed got much less deep sleep than couples in separate beds. It comes down to the fact that when you sleep together there's a greater chance that you're accidentally waking each other up throughout the night. That's bad news. A lack of deep sleep affects you negatively when you're awake (think a weaker immune system, tiredness or even depression).
Additional research suggests (not surprisingly) that a lack of sleep compromises your ability to resolve conflicts with your spouse, therefore causing your marriage to suffer that much more.
Science is great, but let's get personal
For me, researching this topic was all well and good, but I wanted to find someone who lived it. It was easier than I expected. As it turns out, my cousin Jillian Schults is part of that 35% that doesn't sleep with her husband. In fact, they usually don't even sleep in the same room. Because she's insanely quotable, here's what she told me about her experience:
"Once we started sleeping in different beds both of our quality of sleep improved DRAMATICALLY. I thought it was just affecting me because I was pregnant but without me constantly rolling around and bugging my husband, he was sleeping better too. We knew pretty quickly that it was a great choice because both of our moods changed and we were more capable of completing our daily tasks and being happy about it because... Duh... We were actually sleeping at night. In fact, we like it so much we are sleeping in completely separate tents this year when we go camping," she said.
Another part of the 35%, Jenny Bybee, shared a similar experience. She's been married for almost 22 years now. She and her husband have slept in separate beds for over a decade. Here's why:
"We have totally different schedules - I am early to bed, early to rise and he is late. I like it cold and dark with white noise and he likes it warmer and silent. If I wasn't asleep when he'd come to bed it took me forever once he started snoring," she said.
It started out as a temporarily separate sleeping arrangement after her husband got sick - but after what she calls "the best weeks' sleep we'd had since having kids," they didn't look back.
"We both sleep so much better now because we don't have to worry about bothering the other one ... I didn't realize I was bottling up anger towards him for keeping me awake so I was much happier and nicer to him ... We both agree it was the best decision we ever made and it helped our relationship become better actually," she said.
A word to the 65% that do sleep together
Many couples have no problem sleeping together. If that describes you, great. I'm glad it's working for you. Sleep on. But, if you feel short tempered, annoyed or just plain grumpy towards your spouse during the day, it might be worth your time and effort to give different beds a real shot.