Falling asleep in each other’s arms is meant to be the ultimate romantic haven. But let’s be honest, it very rarely is.
In the real world, falling asleep requires a good solid empty space between you and your loved one.
“It is not actually natural to sleep together,” says sleep expert Dr Neil Stanley.
“Humans are the only animals that do it for intimacy, other animals may do it for warmth or protection, and historically it has only ever been the poor who have done so because of lack of space.”
Which is probably why a recent survey by bed manufacturer Sealy revealed that 36% of cohabiting couples in the UK now regularly sleep in separate beds, with 10% doing so all the time.
But although this might seem both tempting and practical, there’s also a wealth of research pointing to many health benefits of sharing a bed.
Some years ago, researchers from the US revealed that sleeping next to someone helps lower the stress hormone cortisol, while other studies suggested women in long-term stable relationships fell asleep more quickly and woke up less frequently than single women.
“Married couples who sleep together may live longer,” agrees Dr Stanley, “but disturbed sleep has been shown to increase marital tension and arguments, so you might live longer but not necessarily happier.”
The answer, it seems, is to heed these expert tips on making your bed and lying in it without ending up in the divorce court.
SEVEN TIPS FOR BETTER BED-SHARING
“Talk to each other,” says Dr Stanley. “Most of the time when our partner disturbs us we accuse them of ruining our sleep and our day.
Talk to your partner about their expectations of sleep, what time they want to go to bed, which side of the bed they prefer and what annoys them about your sleep or your bedtime routine. Do this in a kind and loving manner and try and reach a workable compromise.”
Buy a bigger bed
An obvious solution perhaps, but one that’s easy to overlook when you start thinking about finances or the sheer hassle of replacing a bed.
“The minimum that two adults should sleep in is a six-foot bed as anything smaller gives them less space to sleep in than their child,” says Stanley.
Buy a fancy bed
Spending more on a high-tech bed can reap great rewards, with Stanley recommending the type of bed which combines two mattresses side-by-side.
“Get a ‘zip and link’ bed where each side can have a different comfort level suitable to the sleeper,” he says.
Dr Guy Meadows, sleep expert at The Sleep School, working with Bensons for Beds, says that the more you spend, the more comfortable your night will be.
“A total of 2,000 small springs help to spread weight evenly across the mattress and stop couples from ending squashed together in the middle of the bed. Movement is a huge bedroom disturbance, so investing in a great mattress is key.
Also putting two single mattresses together is a great solution,” he says. “And if they are a duvet hogger, have two duvets.”
“Snoring is not a trivial matter” says Stanley, and certainly, 48% of people in the Sealy survey cited it as the reason for their sleeping apart.
“For many snoring can be reduced by losing a bit of weight and avoiding alcohol, but other remedies that may work are available and so should be explored. And remember it is not always the man’s fault - women also snore!”
Remember snoring can also be a sign of more serious health problems, like sleep apnoea, and if you’re worried, see your GP.
“If the person snores because they have an airway obstruction, they could see an ear, nose and throat specialist,” adds Dr Meadow.
See a doctor
There could be a serious illness behind a bad night’s sleep, says Meadow.
“Make sure you deal with any sleep problems or medical illnesses, like nocturia (a frequent need to urinate at night) or restless legs syndrome, that may disturb your sleep and well as that of your bed partner,” he advises.
It can be hard to perfectly synchronise sleep cycles with your partner, Meadows adds.
“Make sure you wind down and relax before bed, doing what you want when you want.
"Go to bed when you are sleepy and tell your partner not to disturb you when they come to bed: They could get prepared for bed before coming into the bedroom and use a torch as they enter.”
Don’t predict trouble
Often, says Dr Meadows, the anticipation of a bad night’s sleep can lead to just that.
“The person who experiences sleep loss has stories in their head of ‘they’re going to start snoring soon and I’m not asleep yet’,” he says.
“There can be a lot of noise in the person’s head – it’s the worry that actually keeps them awake.
Being able to mindfully notice these thoughts but not get caught up in them is really important because it allows the person to distance themselves from that worry.”
Do you have any tips for harmonious bed-sahring? We'd love to hear them - post them in the Comments below.