Sleep apnea

Making different sleep schedules work for couples


By Gina Roberts-Grey


It’s common knowledge that your sleep schedule can affect productivity, but did you know that it could also affect your relationship? In fact, researchers have found that couples with different sleep schedules are more likely to experience strife in their relationship than those on the same sleep schedule.


“Issues of connection and intimacy seep into the day-in and day-out lives of these couples in such subtle ways that need specific attending to,” said Sharon Gilchrest O'Neill, a licensed marriage and family therapist and author of, “A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage.”


Since we don’t usually pick our partners based on sleep schedules, it’s important that couples learn to work through these differences to preserve a happy union. Here’s what to do if you and your mate have incompatible sleep schedules.


Get creative


“Intimacy is about dialogue and physical touch and sexuality,” O’Neill said. And different schedules inhibit these “connections” that seem to happen more naturally when ending a day or beginning a day together in bed.


O’Neill suggested incorporating these “connections” in other creative ways that become rituals that stay in place. “For example: if 10 p.m. is as late as one partner can fall asleep, establish 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. as the time when you both sit together and talk and catch up with your day.”


Alternatively, the night-owl partner might meet up with his early bird for a bedside chat for a half hour and tuck her in with hug and a kiss before going to another room to read or watch TV until the wee hours of the morning.


Don’t be afraid to brainstorm and experiment with all sorts of possible solutions and compromises, said Dr. Joseph Cilona, a Manhattan-based clinical psychologist and nationally recognized relationship expert.


“Willingness to try something and see how it works out communicates respect and consideration for your partner’s needs. You can always revisit and adjust the strategy to something that is more in line with your needs,” he said.


When all else fails, Cilona suggested sleeping apart to keep opposing schedules from disrupting each other’s sleep.


“Many couples elect to sleep apart occasionally because of the sleep deprivation that can result from incompatibilities in sleep schedules or other issues such as snoring or excessive movement during sleep,“ he said. "Electing to sleep apart can often minimize or eliminate the devastating physical and emotional fallout caused by sleep deprivation and save or enhance a relationship.”

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