A gentle (ha!) jab in the ribs after their third snore wakes you up just causes a simmering resentment over morning coffee. Time to sleep separately? According to a recent YouGov poll, women (41%) are more likely than men (33%) to say they sleep better alone than with someone else. In fact, one in five couples prefer to sleep in separate beds.
But what if you don’t have the luxury of a guest room to retreat to? The couch seems a little unfair and doesn’t exactly nurture a loving, intimate relationship. So what’s the solution if you’re sharing a bed with an incompatible sleeper?
Are you a ‘sensitive’ or a ‘Martini’ sleeper?
It takes two to create a sleeping environment for both of you, but individual needs may differ. Give and take is required, but first you need to determine your type of sleeper.
“If one of you is a sensitive sleeper – someone who wakes up at every slight noise or movement – and the other is a ‘Martini’ sleeper – someone who can sleep anytime, anywhere, anywhere – then the latter should be willing to compromise. close,” sleep and well-being expert Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan tells WebMD Stylist. (For all non-Martini drinkers, the brand’s tagline is “anytime, anywhere, anywhere”).
“Communication is key. The goal is to create a space that feels like a sanctuary where you both feel safe to let go of the day,” she adds.
In addition to agreeing on temperature, light levels and overall atmosphere, the bed you share is crucial to a good night’s sleep. Dr. Sophie Bostock, ‘sleep evangelist’ and founder of The Sleep Scientist, tells Stylist: “If you often wake each other up, consider separate beds – even if it has to be in the same room. You wake each other up less if you don’t touch each other.”
If two beds in one room seems a bit excessive, she adds, “It’s often a good idea to have the largest possible bed in the room to reduce movement that disturbs the other person. Even separate duvets can help.”
Respect each other’s ‘sleeping animals’
While our circadian rhythms are driven by the amount of daylight, our chronotype – your internal body clock – is largely determined by genetics. It’s the classic night owl versus early bird scenario, and is often characterized with other “sleeping animals.” Psychology today describes four chronotypes – the lion, bear, dolphin and wolf – apparently most of us are bears, meticulously follow a solar schedule and often sleep too little during the work week and sleep too much on weekends to make up for it.
“We all have a genetic predisposition to getting up and falling in a certain pattern and for a certain duration of sleep,” explains Dr. Bostock. “On average, women have a slightly earlier biological clock than men, but there is a lot of natural variation. Try to stay true to your internal sleep drive.
“The ideal for sleep quality is consistency of sleep-wake patterns, so instead of alternating those patterns, try to find a compromise that works for both of you. If consistency is impossible – perhaps one of you works shifts – try to pick up the same patterns as soon as possible.
“A luminous alarm clock or exposure to a lightbox for 20-30 minutes each morning can help night owls adjust to waking up earlier if necessary,” she says.
How to deal with a snoring partner
Our sleep experts agree that snoring is one of the biggest sleep-related problems in a relationship. Of course, earplugs are an option, but they carry potential dangers with daily use, such as infection or tinnitus.
Measure the volume
“Snoring can cause huge problems in a relationship. Often snorers themselves are unaware of the cacophony of sound they produce at night,’ says Dr Ramlakhan. “If they deny it — a common cause of frustration in relationships — it might be worth measuring the amount of nighttime snoring.” You do this via apps, such as SnoreLab or SnoreClock.
Encourage lifestyle adjustments
“Then gently and diplomatically find a way to communicate that their snoring really does affect you and that they might want to try some preventative strategies such as increasing hydration, cutting back on caffeine and alcohol consumption, exercising regularly, and even doing vocal exercises to strengthen the throat muscles,” suggests them for.
Or have them try therapy
Dr. Bostock agrees, explaining: “Snoring is caused by a narrowing of the upper airway, often due to the thick tissue of the tongue collapsing during deep sleep. You can do exercises to strengthen the muscles of the tongue, pharynx, and cheeks to improve muscle tone and make collapse less likely. This is called myofunctional therapy and improvements have been made with just 10 minutes of exercise a day for eight weeks.”
Will sex help both of you fall asleep?
Well, you’re already in bed and now you’re both awake… you might as well make the best of it, right? Dr. Bostock explains that while research is currently limited, there is some evidence to suggest that sex can help some get into the right physical and psychological state for sleep, though beware: for a significant minority, sex can sometimes worsen sleep .
However, intimacy can help promote the right hormones for sleep. She explains, “One of the most powerful hormones for relaxing and feeling satisfied is oxytocin. You can increase oxytocin through hugging, gentle caressing and massaging. It doesn’t have to be about sex – it’s about intimacy.”
Aside from sex, there are other activities to do together before bed. Dr. Ramlakhan recommends meditation or gratitude exercises as particularly bonding and sleep-inducing when practiced together.
Dr. Bostock does this himself: “Before we go to sleep, my partner and I ask each other to share three things from that day that we are grateful for. This always ends the day on a positive note.”
Incompatible sleeping habits don’t have to hurt your relationship
Just because you and your partner are very different when it comes to sleep doesn’t mean an unhappy ending is inevitable.
“Patience, tolerance, empathy and communication are key,” says Dr Ramlakhan. “If your partner is a sensitive sleeper, keep in mind that they should relax at night with rules like soft lighting and no technology in the bedroom.
“There will be times when you can’t sleep together, and ideally there would be access to separate sleeping areas for those times, but if not then compromise is key. We all have a unique relationship with sleep and the key is to navigate with sensitivity and understanding – there is no one size fits all.”