Bat­tle be­tween the sheets: Many U.S. cou­ples can’t sleep on this prob­lem

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jen­nifer Harper

Night owl or early bird? Whirling dervish or pa­ja­ma­less snoozer? Some of the big­gest skir­mishes in the bat­tle of the sexes take place be­tween the sheets. Snor­ing, sheet­snitch­ing and op­pos­ing sleep­ing styles don’t make for a rest­ful night for cou­ples who slum­ber to­gether.

“Shar­ing a bed is a com­pli­cated, chang­ing and of­ten a chal­leng­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” said Paul Rosen­blatt, a Univer­sity of Min­nesota so­cialscience pro­fes­sor who in­ter­viewed 45 cou­ples about bed-shar­ing habits.

It’s an en­tire so­cial sys­tem, he said. For bet­ter or worse, an­noy­ing twitches, in­som­nia, cud­dling and even sleep­ing in the nude are among hun­dreds of fac­tors that con­trib­ute to noc­tur­nal dy­nam­ics. The im­por­tance of pillowtalk, how­ever, is cru­cial to the re­la­tion­ship, Mr. Rosen­blatt found.

“If cou­ples don’t have this time in bed, then they’re in trou­ble,” he said, not­ing that quiet mo­ments be­fore sleep can pro­vide well-fo­cused time when cou­ples “make de­ci­sions, deal with dis­agree­ments and solve prob­lems.”

But har­mo­nious sleep­ing is not guar­an­teed — it’s an ac­quired skill.

“Some peo­ple have spent years sprawled out across the bed or wrapped up in a blan­ket, and sud­denly, they have to ad­just to sleep­ing with some­one,” Mr. Rosen­blatt said. “As life changes, peo­ple have to learn how to sleep to­gether and not just once, but again and again.”

In­deed, work ten­sions, chil­dren, health con­cerns, pass­ing anx­i­eties and even tastes in bed linens — whether the quilt is tucked in mat­ters to many— have an ef­fect.

“For ex­am­ple, his in­som­nia can wreck her sleep,” said Mr. Rosen­blatt, adding that snor­ing re­quires many cou­ples to de­velop their own coun­ter­mea­sures. That could mean a lit­tle nudge— or bed­son sep­a­rate floors. Still, most hus­bands and wives value their re­la­tion­ship over a good night’s sleep.

“Many of the­cou­plesin­ter­viewed said they would get a bet­ter night’s sleep apart, but they don’t want to sleep apart be­cause of the in­ti­macy of shar­ing a bed, the se­cu­rity and the sense of be­long­ing to­gether,” Mr. Rosen­blatt said.

Shar­ing a bed can be a life­saver.

“One cou­ple was spoon­ing as they slept when the wo­man had a seizure, and the hus­band woke up im­me­di­ately and called 911,” he added.

A na­tional sur­vey of sleep­ing habits con­ducted last year by the Wash­ing­ton-based Na­tional Sleep Foun­da­tion re­vealed that men tend to need less sleep than women but snooze bet­ter. Among mar­ried re­spon­dents, 77 per­cent said their part­ner hada sleep­ing prob­le­mand 67 per­cent said snor­ing was an is­sue.

A2003 study by the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia found that women re­cover bet­ter from sleep de­pri­va­tion than men do. Re­searchers found women had been “his­tor­i­cally” con­di­tioned to func­tion de­spite sleep loss by­de­mandssuch as child care.

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