COLUMN: Separate beds: the loss of intimacy, or a good night's sleep?
I guess I’m of the old-school train of thought, that a true marriage means intimacy on every level - snoring, cover-hogging and all!
But that’s not to say I wasn’t fascinated recently by a blogger who revealed that a recent survey had shown that one in six British couples now sleep in separate bedrooms. That’s a fairly staggering figure.
As I read on, expecting to be horrified by people’s reasons for sleeping apart from their significant other, I realised...I wasn’t. It actually made a lot of sense. Some people spoke of their different sleep personalities. I could relate to this one; my husband’s a night owl while I’m a morning person. I’m often already half asleep, trying to block out the light from the bedside lamp with my arm, while he’s still reading or brushing his teeth at a glacial pace. Likewise, I don’t think he’s as keen on my drying my hair or stacking the dishwasher noisily at 7.30am while doing my Celine Dion rendition.
As for the duvet, I like it tucked in on the bottom, while his first job is to yank it up and wiggle his newly-freed toes. I like it to cover me smoothly, while he takes his side and folds and smushes it around and under himself, before rolling over and falling fast asleep, leaving me to untangle myself from the demented twists, and try to cover my freezing feet. And while a cuddle is great for a while, I can’t believe anyone - outside of the honeymoon period of a relationship - really enjoys their limbs all tangled around somebody else’s while they’re trying to sleep.
According to Dr Till Roenneberg, a leading researcher on the science of sleep at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, each individual has a uniquely programmed internal clock, and the chances of finding a partner whose sleep cycle exactly matches your own is highly unlikely. This means one of you usually ends up compromising by going to bed after your natural sleep window or arising before your natural wake time, leading you with, what Dr Ronnenebery terms, ‘social jet lag.’
So I totally get it. Suddenly those one in six people aren’t so crazy, they’re the ones sleeping better than the rest of us and probably laughing at us for not figuring it out yet. But it doesnt’ matter, I know I could never make the break. I still think those few minutes sleepily chatting to my husband and the last kiss of the night that we never miss are important. And maybe even worth being a little less well-rested for. Maybe.