The Big Bedtime Break-up
A new study has revealed that more women than ever aren’t sharing a bed with their partners. In fact, sleeping solo has become the new norm. But why?
‘ I’m about to go to sleep, so I take out my contacts and lean over to kiss my partner Tom* goodnight.’ So far, so ordinary for veterinary nurse Claire. ‘And then I walk out the door and head down the hall to sleep in my own room.’
If you’re thinking that’s unusual, you’re wrong. Claire and Tom are part of a growing number of committed couples choosing to spend their nights apart – and it’s been coined the ‘night divorce’.
For Claire, it’s about getting good quality sleep. ‘Tom snores and it was making me tired and cranky,’ she tells us. ‘I asked him if he would mind if I slept in the spare room and so far it’s been the best decision we’ve made, and I know I’m more pleasant to be around having had my eight hours.’
A recent study reveals that a fifth of married couples sleep in separate beds or don’t share a room, with participants citing reasons including restless sleeping, insomnia and separate working patterns. With over 3.5million of us employed in jobs outside the normal 9-5 hours, work has become the cause of several night divorces.
‘Martin and I started sleeping in separate beds roughly 18 months ago,’ says Louise, 25, a cleaner from London. ‘I had started working nights while Martin [32, an accountant] was still working days. I wake up when he leaves the house, so we decided to try sleeping in separate beds and so far it works.’
According to the NHS, the average adult needs six to nine hours of sleep a night to give your body time to repair and recuperate, so it’s understandable that if you’re experiencing issues, you might be driven to the spare bed. But while that extra shut-eye might be beneficial for your health, how does it affect your relationship?
Louise admits it’s been difficult at times. ‘We can feel distant,’ she tells us. ‘And obviously we don’t have those bedtime cuddles. We still have a very sexual relationship, but what will often happen is that we’ll have sex in one of our beds, fall asleep and then wake up in the night and go back to our own room.’
However, while Louise insists it has improved her relationship, that’s not always the case.
‘My fiancé and I decided to try sleeping in separate beds because I was having a tough time at work and kept waking up, which would disturb him,’ says Amy, 32, a teacher from the Wirral. ‘But it changed something between us. We just couldn’t get our connection back, especially sexually, and we ended up splitting up just a few months later.’
It’s something that relationship therapist Christina Fraser (Coupleworks.com) has seen a lot of.
‘There are times when sleeping apart can feel like a gift,’ she says. ‘But in my experience, it’s not a good solution for most couples. Usually, it reflects other problems in your relationship as it’s a signal that you’re avoiding intimacy – not just sex, but the hugging, talking and ‘close’ time before bed.’
She recommends couples therapy to get to the root of the problem. ‘I like to tackle it head on,’ adds Christina. ‘No one situation is the same for all, but talking about it with a therapist in a safe space can help.’
For Louise, it’s not something she’s worried about. ‘I don’t know if Martin and I will do this forever,’ says Louise. ‘But right now our night divorce is working fine.’
Our night divorce changed something between us. We couldn’t get our connection back