Sleeping in the same bed is considered the cornerstone of family relationships. But maybe everything we’ve thought about it so far isn’t true.
There is a lot of pressure on people today to sleep in the same bed, but this is largely a socially constructed belief system, not based on science. Most of the pioneering work in the field of sleep science over the past 60 years has been based on studies of people sleeping alone in a laboratory, under strictly controlled conditions.
But sleep in the real world does not happen in the laboratory. Sleep in the real world is often noisy, intermittent and, most importantly, rarely do any of us sleep alone. Couples of all types — heterosexual, homosexual, young, elderly, healthy couples or those who face illness — face all kinds of problems when they decide to sleep together.
Why is sleeping together bad?
According to one study conducted in the United States, more than 60% of couples sleep together. The trend of wealthy couples choosing separate bedrooms is nothing new – just think about how Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, pictured in The Crown, slept. They have a serious, strong relationship, even though they’ve been sleeping apart for decades (at least according to Netflix).
Fast forward to the sexual revolution. It was then that we began to equate the figurative meaning of co—sleeping (that is, sex) with the literal meaning, which led to cultural attitudes that we adhere to to this day – that separate sleep is necessarily a sign of union without love or sex. There is even the term “divorce in a dream” for this, when couples prefer to sleep separately.
That’s what science actually tells us about the pros and cons of sleeping together or separately. When sleep is measured objectively, people with a partner actually sleep worse than when alone. In fact, if you sleep with someone who snores, you can blame them for 50 percent of your sleep disorders.
But when you ask people with disturbed sleep whether they prefer to sleep with a partner or alone, most say they prefer to sleep with their partner. This suggests that our social brain prioritizes our need for intimacy and safety at night, even if it is associated with sleep disorders.
However, all couples should prioritize sleep in their relationship. Why? Because healthy sleep can strengthen our relationships, while sleepless nights can harm them. Take, for example, this common scenario. One partner falls asleep, and snoring begins. The other partner lies awake until he decides to kick the partner so that his snoring stops. Neither of them is sleeping well, and at least one of them is becoming increasingly resentful. This can lead to a vicious cycle of sleep problems, which will lead to relationship problems, damage your health and well-being.