Thinking about a married couple sleeping in two separate beds might have you harken to the images of retro TV shows like I Love Lucy that were required to separate men and women in bed due to censorship practices. But, spouses sleeping in separate beds each night is actually a more common practice than you would think. According to a recent study by the International Housewares Association for The New York Times, one in five couples sleep in separate bedrooms, and almost two thirds of those do so every night. While some might assume this sleeping style is a sign of a bad marriage, it can actually show a sign of the contrary.
"It's not a positive or negative thing per se, but it's more related to the couple and their current situation," explains relationship strategist Elizabeth Overstreet. "A couple has to do what works best for their relationship dynamics. If this dynamic of having separate sleeping arrangements works for a couple, that is all that matters. I have known couples who have opted for separate sleeping arrangements and are still in a healthy relationship."
Meet the Expert
Elizabeth Overstreet is a relationship strategist and author of "Love You And He Will Too."
Ahead, Overstreet shares how this can be a positive practice for couples and how to propose it in your own relationship.
Why Couples Sleep Separately
Getting a good night of sleep is the primary reason a couple should consider sleeping in separate beds or even different bedrooms. "Sleep is vital for recovery, along with providing physical and mental clarity," explains Overstreet. "And sometimes, couples have entirely different sleep cycles and sleep disorders such as snoring, sleep apnea, restlessness, or sleep terrors, which can create unrest in the bedroom."
"One individual in the relationship might be a night owl. One person in the relationship may prefer to fall asleep to ambient noises such as television or music, while the other may prefer a sensory blackout experience," she continues. "Instead of constantly fighting with one another on the topic and losing sleep, a couple may opt for making their sleeping arrangements more flexible to meet one another's needs."
How to Strengthen a Relationship While Sleeping Apart
If a couple decides to sleep separately, Overstreet notes that it is important for the couple to find other outlets for touch and intimacy. "While there can be value in a couple sleeping together, especially if one's love language is physical affection, they can reach an agreement that works best for them," she shares. "Intimacy starts outside the bedroom, and a couple sleeping separately doesn't have to inhibit or lessen intimacy. A couple with one partner with a love language around physical touch can find other ways to show this affection outside of sleeping together via holding hands or being affectionate in different ways, etc. It's about intention, discussing one another's needs, and reaching a happy medium."
The relationship strategist says if a married couple has found they can have a happy, healthy relationship and a better sleep schedule having separate beds, they should discuss the decision with their children and be open why you choose to do so. "It will give them some insights into understanding this may not be the norm in every relationship, but you're doing it to show compromise and support for one another's sleep habits. In other words, it's an act of love," she advises. "Also, demonstrating affection to one another in front of your kids via hugs, holding hands, etc., outside of the bedroom can help model how to cultivate healthy habits so they have a more holistic view of a relationship."