Sleep divorce: The 'practical solution' for couples to sleep well

New research reveals more than one-third of people have a 'sleep divorce' and sleep in another room from their partner
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

21.40 24 May 2024

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Sleep divorce: The 'practical...

Sleep divorce: The 'practical solution' for couples to sleep well

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

21.40 24 May 2024

Share this article

Couples sleeping in separate beds, a so-called sleep divorce, is a 'practical solution' to the problem of their partner disturbing their sleep.

New US research reveals more than one-third of people say they occasionally or consistently sleep in another room from their partner.

Many people are opting for the change to help improve their nightly sleep - whether it's to avoid partners who steal the covers and toss and turn all night, or those who consistently have loud snoring.


Co-author of A Sleep Divorce: How to Sleep Apart, Not Fall Apart Dr Neil Stanley told Newstalk Breakfast separate beds is a good alternative.

"For many people it's a practical solution to the problem of their partner disturbing their sleep," he said.

"I did a study back in 2005 that shows that much of your sleep disturbance is caused either by the noises your bed partner makes or the movements they make.

"So sleeping apart for many people could be a pragmatic solution to getting a better night's sleep".

'You can't share sleep'

Dr Stanley dismissed suggestions that so-called sleep divorce lacks romance.

"You can't share your sleep with anybody," he said.

"You have a kiss and a cuddle, you lie there in bliss and then you get pins and needles in your arms and you turn over to your side of the bed and say, 'That's it - I'm going to sleep now'.

"So why not at that point go to your room where you have your bed and get a good night's sleep?

"Then toddle off to the bed in the morning for more cuddles, rather than waking up wanting to kill your partner because they snored all night".

Person sleeping in bed next to an alarm clock after daylight saving time kicks in Person sleeping in bed next to an alarm clock. Image: Anna Berkut / Alamy

Dr Stanley said the idea of a marital bed comes from ancient Rome and is "the bed that you consummated the marriage in."

"We know that [Britain's] Queen and Prince Philip didn't sleep together," he said.

"Rich people have never slept together; the only reason you sleep together with your partner is because you are poor and you can't afford the space.

"The reason you share your bed is in the mid-Victorian times men wanted to have more sex with their wives so they kicked the baby out of the bed and installed themselves into the bed".

Dr Stanley added that if people are aware their partner is next to them during the night "they're disturbing your sleep."

"A good proportion of the population... wake up resenting their partner, wishing to smother them with the pillow because they've been snoring all night and disturbing their sleep".

Sleep divorce and 'resentment'

American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) spokesperson Dr Seema Khosla said a good night's sleep is very important.

"We know that poor sleep can worsen your mood, and those who are sleep deprived are more likely to argue with their partners," she said.

"There may be some resentment toward the person causing the sleep disruption which can negatively impact relationships.

"Getting a good night's sleep is important for both health and happiness, so it’s no surprise that some couples choose to sleep apart for their overall well-being," she added.

Studies have shown that those in relationships who consistently experience poor sleep are more likely to engage in conflict with their partners and that sleep loss decreases levels of empathetic accuracy - meaning those who don't have enough sleep may be less able to understand or interpret their partners' feelings.

The AASM commissioned an online survey of 2,005 adults in the US with an overall margin of error within +/- 2 percentage points.

Listen back here:

Main image: A couple in bed with one of them unable to sleep, 24-2-17. Image: Aleksandr Davydov / Alamy 

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AASM American Academy Of Sleep Medicine Disturbing Sleep Dr Neil Stanley Dr Seema Khosla Newstalk Breakfast Sleep Divorce US Research

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