Did you know that by a couple’s 20th wedding anniversary, they’ll have spent roughly six to seven years together in bed? You’d think couples would have everything worked out by then … yet an estimated 23 percent of U.S. couples sleep apart, according to a survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation. For the other 77 percent of couples that do sleep together, the National Sleep Foundation survey indicates that one partner loses an average of 49 minutes of sleep per night due to some disruptive behavior, such as snoring, tossing and turning, watching TV, or preferring a hot or cold room. So before resorting to separate beds or bedrooms, identify and attempt to resolve those disruptive conflicts that might develop.
To put it in perspective, most marriages in the U.S. today start when the couples are in their mid to late twenties—and have therefore spent about a quarter of a century developing their own personal sleep habits and routines. There is an initial period of unlearning and relearning when it comes to sharing the bedroom, and for awhile, there is relative calm. But as life progresses, our sleep patterns and habits slowly transform. We change careers, have children, gain weight, get pets. We age. As we do, we may begin to snore, sleep warm, develop aches and pains, sleep more lightly and wake more frequently. We age at different rates, and men and women age uniquely, introducing potential conflicts in the bedroom.
The good news: most of these “incompatibilities” are easily addressed once they are acknowledged and targeted. Below are several common sleep disturbances and ways to minimize their effects.
Snoring is more predominant in people who are overweight and exercise and weight loss can decrease it. It’s also exacerbated by alcohol use or relaxants taken near bedtime, so avoidance of these can lead to improvement. Sleeping on one’s back also contributes to the problem. A somewhat softer mattress and a carefully fitted pillow designed to encourage a better sleeping posture have helped many.
The ideal room temperature for sleep is in the mid sixties. There are new mattress and bedding textiles that promote more even temperature balance during the night, and bedding that features a dual weight design —heavier on one side, lighter on the other—perfect for couples with different temperature needs.
Excessive tossing and turning can be caused by a firm mattress. Re-evaluation of the mattress, or the addition of a mattress pad might help. A larger mattress provides more room and can greatly reduce disturbances between couples, as can a mattress that better isolates motion between sleepers—such as the Sleep Number bed which has separate air chambers.
Head, neck or shoulder discomfort may indicate the wrong pillow.
Most sleep specialists strongly advise against TVs, radios or computers in bed, but if one insists while the other is trying to sleep, a compromise is in order. Keep the volumes down, set the sleep timer, and use a small clip-on light for computer use or reading. Subtle changes in sleeping habits or bedtime routines as well as sleep accessories – such as eye masks, ear plugs or sound machines – can help.
What does your sleep partner do to keep you up at night? How do you deal with it? I’d love to hear your tips.
Sleep well (together),
@SleepGeekPete on Twitter