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What Is A Sleep Divorce and How Can It Help?

Is your partner keeping you up at night due to their frequent cover stealing abilities, snoring, or simply getting annoying during the night? Sleep divorce is a term where a couple decides it is best to get their rest by sleeping in different beds or rooms. According to Slumber Cloud, a survey showed 12% of Americans opted for it, while 30% have talked about it.

Jennifer Adams, the author of Sleeping Apart, Not Falling Apart, says, “If you’re a couple that can sleep without disrupting each other, it is great. That does not make your relationship better than couples who sleep in separate rooms.” After 15 years of sleeping in separate rooms, she has learned “hundreds of thousands sleep separately and still fully enjoy their relationship and life. It simply provides a better night of sleep.”


Steen, Jan; The Sleeping Couple; City of London Corporation; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-sleeping-couple-52186

Co-Sleeping in History

The act of couples sleeping in a single bed has not been strictly established as a social norm. According to Atlas Obscura, couples up to the Victorian era would bed together to foster community and as a necessity. During Middle Ages, it was common for peasants to sleep as a family on the floor with livestock to stay warm and safe. Introduced during the 15th century, beds were created big as affordable to provide space for everyone to sleep and cuddle, and only the wealthy had multiple beds.

Separate beds for each family member was not the norm until the 19th century as a way to prevent spreading germs and helping embrace women with newfound independence. It wasn’t until after the 1970s that separate sleeping was considered old-fashioned, resulting in the commonly expected couples being in the same bed at night. 

How Sleeping Apart Can Help

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is suggested adults get an average of seven hours of sleep each night. Not getting enough sleep has shown evidence to push relationships apart due to creating conflicts during the day. 

Adams said many couples said they would not get adequate sleep due to their partners snoring, conflicting schedules, movement, or environmental preference. However, by sleeping separately, the same couples learned they were much happier during the day when they were both able to get the required amount of sleep. Laying awake at night due to disruption from your partner can create feelings of resentment, which can create a divide over time. 

Better Sleep, Better Health

Sleep is the foundation of having a healthy and enjoyable life. It is important to get a healthy amount of sleep, according to Natalie D. Dautovich, Ph.D. and spokesperson for National Sleep Foundation. It helps regenerate the blood vessels, heart and lower the risk of obesity while increasing cognitive functions and immune responses.

Not getting enough sleep can cause negative health effects, even without remembering you were woke during the night. There are many stages of sleep, and interrupting this cycle several times means less time in the deeper, restorative stages.

How to Have The Conversation

If you are considering a sleep divorce, you may be wondering how to bring the idea up without offending your partner. Adams says tone and timing are important. You want to be sure you know why you want to sleep in separate rooms so you can clearly explain to your partner and reassure them that it is not rejection. 

Choose a time when you and your partner are not in a hurry and can discuss it in detail. If they feel hurt or rejected, reassure them that it isn’t. Keep in mind, it may take several conversations.

How Sleep Divorce Can Strengthen Relationships

There are many ways that this can make a relationship stronger. If you are having trouble starting the conversation or convincing your partner, remember to mention these positive outcomes.

  • Separate Rooms Doesn’t Mean Terrible Relationship

If you are curious about sleeping in different rooms, you or your partner may be thinking that is a sign of a terrible relationship. However, remember the reason is health-based, not emotionally based. Society tends to consider sleeping in a single bed as a romantic relationship, but that does not factor in sleep disruption night after night. 

  • Sleep Compromises

If you are suffering from sleep deprivation, you may be thinking that separate beds are the best idea. However, have you considered compromises? For example, sleeping apart during the week, then together on weekends? Just because you are considering a sleep divorce does not mean you cannot be creative and make your own rules that work. 

  • Cuddles Before Bed

If you are going to sleep separately, consider cuddling before bed. If it is common for you and your partner to have a conversation or cuddle before falling asleep, or first thing in the mornings – continue doing these things. Cuddle or talk before going to bed, or wake up and cuddle before starting the day. 

It is important to reassure each other by keeping your common routines alive. For some, it may be a simple cuddle; for others, it could be intimacy. If you are sleeping separately for better rest, there is no reason not to continue those rituals. 

  • Intentional Closeness

If you are going to be sleeping separately, increase physical affection during the day, says Dr. Jamea. This does not have to result in sexual activities unless desired. Physical closeness can be anything from binge-watching Netflix on the couch while cuddling to taking a shower together. These activities help the physical intimacy and feeling of closeness alive after a sleep divorce.