Couples who live together are usually expected to sleep in the same bed, if social norms are anything to go by. Yet, a viral tweet has sparked a fierce debate over whether it’s more beneficial for couples to sleep in separate bedrooms.
A Twitter user who goes by the handle @gaialect wrote on Sunday (20 November): “I think I will want separate bedrooms when I’m married. Unless maybe if the bed is super big… No, but even so, like, we can decorate our own rooms the way we want and have sleepovers.
“I just feel like we would thrive in our spaces decorated the way we like,” they added.
The idea of a couple who sleep in separate beds or bedrooms is not novel. In fact, up until the Seventies, fictional couples on TV were almost always depicted as sleeping in separate twin beds rather than in one double bed.
The practice of sleeping in separate bedrooms is also found among royalty. The late Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh famously did not share the same bedroom, but always had connecting bedrooms.
Experts say that sleeping separately could be hugely beneficial to couples who are struggling with different sleeping patterns or sleep disorders that are keeping each other from having a good night’s rest.
Dr Hana Patel, a GP specialist in sleep and mental health and mindset coach, tells The Independent that, while sleeping in separate bedrooms is not for everyone, some couples could find it improves their relationships.
Sleep disorders like very loud snoring, sleep apnea, or night terrors can affect the other person’s quality of sleeping by keeping them awake. Adjusting to having very young children might also be a cause for poor sleep habits.
“For people with young children, it might be that one parent needs to repeatedly get up to feed or soothe the child, therefore interrupting the other person’s sleep and resulting in both parents not getting enough rest,” Dr Patel adds.
Differing sleep habits might also affect couples’ ability to sleep in the same room. Dorothy Chambers, sleep expert at Sleep Junkie, explains: “You might like to fall asleep to relaxing music, while your partner may prefer a sensory blackout. And then there’s snoring, sleep apnea, body heat, clashing schedules, and ongoing battles for the covers. Sometimes, it can be impossible to settle on a nighttime routine that suits both parties.”
In such situations, it might be worth trialling sleeping in separate bedrooms, as this could give both parties a chance to get solid, high-quality sleep without interruption.
Dr Patel says: “Sleep is so important to us, and not getting enough of it can lead to poor mental and physical health. For some couples, sleeping apart can be the best thing for their relationship.”
Some studies have shown that more couples who live together are choosing to sleep apart. In France, a 2021 study showed that 10 per cent of cohabiting couples sleep in separate bedrooms, whereas a 2019 study by the Sleep Health Foundation found that 17 per cent of more than 2,000 Australian couples slept alone.
However, experts acknowledge that some people may hesitate to try sleeping apart because they worry about losing intimacy or the chance to check in with one another before falling asleep or after waking up.
Chambers says: “While it may be a growing trend, it’s still seen as a taboo subject that elicits a concerned and often judgemental response. Sharing a bed with a partner is traditionally seen as an expression of relationship bliss, but in reality, sharing a bed can be a struggle – no matter how much you love one another.
“We all know just how important sleep is to our mental and physical health, and if ditching the age-old idea that you must share a bed with your partner helps you get a quality night’s rest, then I’d encourage people to explore this option. But aside from improving sleep – which is associated with brain function, emotional wellbeing, and a stronger immune system, to name a few – prioritising sleep can create a greater connection between couples, reduce bickering and arguments, provide more ‘me time’ and improve communication.”
“If losing intimacy is something you’re worried about, have a discussion with one another to find other moments and ways of making sure you’re keeping in touch with one another,” Dr Patel advises. “Maybe have a cup of tea together before going to your separate rooms to sleep, or make sure you spend a bit of time together first thing in the morning. It’s all about eking those moments out to ensure you’re still getting quality time together as well as sleep.”