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One in six cohabiting couples in the UK now chooses to sleep in separate beds. Elsewhere, the figure is even higher, with one in three Canadian couples opting to ditch the double bed, and US new builds beginning to incorporate twin master bedrooms as standard. So why is sleeping apart still seen as a sign of an ailing relationship? We investigate whether sleeping in separate beds could make – or break – your marriage.
Hot flushes, snoring, warring body clocks – whilst their reasons are many and varied, 86% of cohabiting Britons admit to enjoying a better night’s sleep when they have a bed to themselves. And, as we all know, sleep matters – studies have even shown that getting seven or eight hours of sleep a night causes you to think less negatively about your relationship.
However, in a recent survey, two thirds of couples who slept in separate beds conceded that their relationship had suffered from the arrangement, with 51% reporting an increased sense of distance, and 42% a less active sex life. Whilst sleeping separately can make sex more exciting, if a couple’s sex life is already sporadic, separate beds may be the final nail in the coffin – as they become accustomed to not having sex, the sex drives of both partners may drop further.
The loss of non-sexual physical intimacy may be even more important. Non-sexual touching causes us to produce oxytocin, the so-called bonding hormone, whilst bedtime chats provide a key opportunity for couples to bond in the absence of other distractions.
If you want to give sleeping together another shot, a new bed and mattress may help. UK couples typically choose smaller double beds than their European counterparts, but the bigger the bed, the better we sleep and the less frequently we wake in the night. Meanwhile, an adaptive mattress can minimise the disruption caused by a restless partner’s night-time movements.
Want to try sleeping apart? Build opportunities to develop physical and emotional intimacy into your daytime or evening routine. Try cuddling up on the sofa before bed or going for a regular walk together after dinner. And don’t be too quick to throw out the double bed: the couples who navigate the bedroom minefield most effectively tend to enjoy regular sleepovers, sleeping together once or twice a week.