There is a growing trend in the United State among couples to sleep in separate beds. The reasons are many: snoring, conflicting late-night habits such as TV watching in bed, sheet-stealing, even different work schedules—all can be factors in couples making the decision to part ways at night for a better night’s sleep.
But an article in The Wall Street Journal suggests there are numerous benefits to staying in the same bed. At the scientific level, sleeping together—and, specifically, spooning—releases the hormone oxytocin, which can lower blood pressure, aid in healing and help the body relax. Oxytocin, a.k.a., the “love hormone,” also increases a person’s feelings regarding affection, love and security—always a good thing between couples.
On a societal level, humans crave other human contact, and sleeping together helps fulfill that need, said Rachel E. Salas, the assistant medical director for the Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep, in the WSJ article. “If you go to other countries, whole families still sleep together,” she noted.
And for people with sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, having someone in the same bed can help aid in diagnosing the disorder by observing the symptoms and taking action, such as waking a sleep apnea sufferer who stops breathing, Salas said.
Wendy Troxel, an assistant professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, published the results of a study of sleep habits of men and women in 2009 which noted, in part, that women in long-term, stable relationships fell asleep more quickly and woke up fewer times during the night.
“Sleep is a critically important health behavior that we know is associated with heart disease and psychiatric well-being,” Troxel said in a separate WSJ article. “It happens to be this health behavior that we do in couples.”
There’s also research proving couples who sleep in the same bed overall have happier, more committed relationships and live longer than those who sleep alone. According to a Time article:
“The new findings challenge previous studies showing that people move around more or don’t sleep as well when there’s someone else in their bed. [Wall Street Journal reporter Andrea] Petersen cites a recent long-term study by Wendy M. Troxel, an assistant professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, that found that women in stable relationships actually fell asleep faster and awoke less frequently during the night than single women or those whose relationship status changed over the study period. Another study in 2010 found that among 29 couples, women slept better at night when they had fewer negative interactions with their partners during the day; on days that women reported more harmony in their relationships, the men slept better too.”
Granted, for some couples, sleeping apart may be the only answer to getting a good night’s sleep. But if you and your partner have discussed moving to separate beds, don’t take the decision lightly—for most, the benefits of staying together outweigh the costs.
There is also an online sleep apnea test available for couples experiencing bed-sharing issues related to snoring.