Does sharing a bed with a partner affect your sleep?
It is often seen as a given that if you have a romantic partner, you will share a bed – particularly if you live together.
But, what impact does this have on the quality of your sleep?
A few things are generally needed for a great night’s sleep. This includes “dark, cool and quiet” – says Dr Zoe Gotts, consultant clinical psychologist at The London Sleep Centre (londonsleepcentre.com).
With this in mind, Gotts says: “Sharing a bed with someone can be bad news. If your partner snores, fidgets, makes you feel too hot, or simply has unrestful sleep, this will inevitably have an impact on you.”
And these interruptions or disturbances can have a detrimental effect.
“When we are woken during the night, our movement through the different stages of sleep is interrupted. It can also have a knock-on effect on health,” says Theresa Schnorbach, sleep scientist at Emma, The Sleep Company (team.emma-sleep.com).
“We may get less of the restorative early stages of sleep – the stage that helps improve memory, learning, reaction time and logistical reasoning.
“If disturbances from a partner become a regular issue, it could lead to long-lasting health problems,” she adds. “Sleep deprivation has been found to reduce the sensitivity of receptors and communication between brain regions, ultimately changing the make-up of the brain.”
It’s not all bad news, though. There are certainly some potential benefits to our wellbeing to be had from sharing a bed with a partner too – a boost in oxytocin being one of them.
This hormone is associated with a range of positive effects, including helping us feel relaxed, close and bonded.
“Multiple studies have shown that sharing a bed with a partner can help improve slumber,” says Schnorbach. “It opens up the possibility of cuddling, which can reduce your core temperature.
“Sleeping with your backs touching, or with your hands or feet touching, can offer a similar effect,” she adds. “These sleep styles give you enough physical connection to release oxytocin, while allowing you more freedom under the covers.”
Sex and sleep
Schnorbach says: “Sex is another benefit of sharing a bed, and can aid sleep.
“One of the biggest contributors to poor sleep is raised levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Sex helps to reduce stress by releasing oxytocin, a hormone that works as a stress regulator. This helps us relax, allowing a better quality of sleep,” she explains.
“Orgasming also releases prolactin, a unique hormone that has the primary function of promoting rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.”
Sharing a bed may not work if you and your partner’s sleep habits differ greatly, however. For example, what if one person like staying up much later than the other? What if your partner wants to watch TV or read in bed, but you need silence and the lights out at a certain time?
It’s important to take these things seriously and find solutions that work for everyone.
“You need to assess the needs and sleep patterns of both you and your partner, and make a decision that is right for you both,” says Schnorbach. “If you choose to sleep with your partner, I recommend that you aim to go to bed at the same time, in order to reap the benefits of sleeping together.
“It may take some time to work out a routine that suits you both, but as with any relationship, communication and compromise are key.”