Happy Couples, Separate Beds: Finding Joy In Sleeping Apart

By Nara Schoenberg
Chicago Tribune.

Jennifer Adams has tried sleeping in the same bed with her husband.

“We were both wrecked,” she says. “It would have made a great cartoon. He knew he snored and was keeping me up. I was kind of pushing him to roll him over, and he started to feel really bad that he was keeping me awake, so he got anxious about falling asleep.”

Soon, neither one was sleeping, and he still had to wake up at 5 a.m. for his job as a ceramic tiler.

The solution they arrived at is surprisingly common: Surveys by the National Sleep Foundation suggest that anywhere from 11 to 23 percent of live-in couples sleep in separate beds. But Adams’ willingness to talk about her experience sets her apart.

In the past few years, home design bloggers (such as apartmenttherapy.com) and some thought leaders (Dr. James Hamblin at the Atlantic) have begun questioning the widely held belief that all happy couples sleep in the same bed. Some relationship books (“The Power of Surrender” by Dr. Judith Orloff) present separate sleeping as a valid option. But Adams, an Australian communications professional, has gone further, stepping forward as an author and blogger to share her personal experience of separate sleeping.

Brooke O’Donnell, managing director of Trafalgar Square Publishing, distributor of Adams’ book, “Sleeping Apart, Not Falling Apart,” in the U.S., says it does not appear to have an American equivalent.

“The idea of sleeping apart has such a stigma, and this addresses it so well,” O’Donnell says.

Adams points to numerous examples of stigma against separate sleeping, which is widely associated with sexual disinterest and relationship turmoil. The term “sleeping together” means sex, she points out, and “sleeping in separate beds” is verbal shorthand for fighting. Gossip magazines hammer home the point that happy couples sleep in the same bed.

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