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 (Cou­ple­ 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

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