Is sleep causing a strain in your relationship? There are multiple reasons why couples may struggle to sleep beside each other. Snoring, different schedules, and tossing and turning are just some of the ways sleeping together as a couple can be challenging.
Sleep is vital to our daily functioning and health, so when our partner makes it hard to get a good night’s rest, it’s understandable that this could cause a rift in the relationship. While you might not want to actually divorce your spouse over this, a sleep divorce could be a helpful solution. We’ll cover what a sleep divorce entails, what the data says, the potential benefits, and more.
What Is a Sleep Divorce?
A sleep divorce is when couples sleep separately to achieve better sleep. This can mean that the couple sleeps in separate rooms under the same roof, in separate beds in the same room, or an entirely other setup that works for them. Rather than a couple sleeping separately because of an argument, a sleep divorce is a conscious decision to improve each other’s rest and in turn, their relationship.
Reasons to Consider a Sleep Divorce
Each couple is different, so the reasons why they choose to sleep separately will vary. However, there are some more common issues couples can experience at night.
- Snoring – It’s reported that as many as 90 million Americans1 snore on occasion, and 37 million snore regularly. That means there’s a good chance you or your partner is a snorer. Snoring, even subtly, can be highly distracting to the other person, creating a sore spot in the relationship if one person can’t sleep because of it.
- Sleep apnea – Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder with several symptoms that can be problematic for couples. First, loud snoring2 is typically associated with sleep apnea. Second, people with sleep apnea often wake up during the night gasping for air because they aren’t getting enough oxygen.2
- Different schedules – Different sleep schedules can be a challenge for some couples. For example, maybe one person likes going to bed promptly at 9:00 p.m., while the other person is crawling into bed close to Midnight. If the person getting into bed late makes a commotion, this could cause the other partner to wake up and maybe have difficulty getting back to sleep.
- Pulling the covers – Some couples might be dealing with a tug-of-war scenario in which they are fighting over the covers. This could certainly be distracting if you’re trying to get some shut-eye. For instance, if you live in a cooler climate and suddenly lose your covers in the middle of January, this could prompt you to suddenly wake up. In this case, you might also consider the Scandinavian Sleep Method instead of a sleep divorce. With this method, each partner gets their own duvet or comforter.
- Tossing and turning – When one person tosses and turns all night long, this could cause a commotion on the other side of the mattress. One way to help with this is to invest in a mattress that isolates motion well. However, if the movements are still too distracting, separate beds may be needed.
- Cell phone use – If your partner winds down by looking at their cell phone in bed, this can be an issue. Not only is the light from a cell phone distracting, but these devices emit a blue light that obstructs melatonin production3. Melatonin production increases at night as part of the circadian rhythm’s sleep-wake cycle, but if a cell phone or other device hinders this process, it could be more challenging to fall asleep.
Sleep Divorce Statistics
A recent survey from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that about one-third of Americans4 either occasionally or regularly sleep in separate rooms to accommodate one another. However, men were more likely to sleep in a guest room or on the couch than women.
They also found variance among age demographics. At 43 percent, millennials were the largest group to do a sleep divorce, whereas baby boomers were the lowest at 22 percent.4
Sleep Divorce Benefits
- Better sleep quality and duration – For couples who do a sleep divorce because of nighttime problems, this can mean better sleep. Not only could it increase your sleep duration, but it can also help boost your quality of sleep.
- Better daytime concentration – When you sleep well, this translates to better concentration the following day. This is especially helpful for couples in which both partners are working full-time or have to drive every day. Conversely, when you’re sleep-deprived and not well-rested, your performance and focus worsen5.
- Boost your immune system – Did you know that poor sleep impairs your immune system6? This means you’re more likely to get sick, and if you do get sick, it can take longer to get over the illness.
- More energy during the day – Sleeping well also gives you more energy the next day, making it easier to get more things accomplished. Plus, you are more likely to engage in physical activity, and regular exercise helps increase restorative deep sleep7.
- Improve your long-term health – It’s important to tackle sleep loss because it is linked to serious long-term health issues. By improving your nighttime rest through a sleep divorce, you could lower your risk of health complications8 like heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and depression.
- Healthier and happier relationship – Of course, all of the above-mentioned benefits can also mean a healthier and happier relationship for you and your partner. Experts say sleep deprivation can harm relationships9. For instance, it might breed resentment toward the other person, or you’re less likely to spend time out together due to a lack of energy. When you feel good, though, this can create a better connection.
Sleep Divorce Drawbacks
- Could impact intimacy – In some cases, if couples don’t regularly sleep beside one another, they may have sex less often. One reason for this is that you might feel less connected to the other person, especially if you’re not spending enough time together during the day.
- No benefits of cuddling – Couples can’t cuddle at night if they’re not sharing a bed, and cuddling, also referred to as the “feel good hormone”, is very beneficial. Cuddling is linked to10 weight loss, lower blood pressure, better immune health, and less stress.
- More costly – Sleep divorce can be expensive. If you need a separate bed or an extra bedroom to accommodate this setup, it’ll cost you. A quality mattress is an investment, along with an additional bed frame, extra pillows, and other bedding.
- May develop insecurity or uncertainty – A sleep divorce may lead to insecurity or uncertainty in a relationship. Some people may feel uncomfortable if their significant other is suddenly asking to sleep in a separate room.
How to Do a Sleep Divorce
If you and your partner have decided on a sleep divorce, there a some different ways you can do it, based on your specific circumstances.
First, though, it’s a good idea to do a trial run before investing in any expensive new bedding or furniture. You and your partner could try having one person sleep on the couch for a week or two while the other is in the bedroom. This way, you can see if you both feel comfortable sleeping separately without making any large purchases. Take time to talk about how you both feel and whether you think it’s making a positive impact.
Once you know you’ll continue with a more permanent solution, you have to decide if you want to just sleep in separate beds in the same room or two completely different rooms. For those who live in an apartment or house in which there’s not an extra available room, this could mean needing to relocate to a larger space or perhaps adding a Murphy bed to your living room so that the extra bed can be folded up when not in use.
Separate rooms are probably most helpful if snoring, sleep apnea, different schedules, and cell phone use are getting in the way of your sleep. For couples dealing with tossing and turning or pulling the covers, separate beds in the same room could work.
Most importantly, you and your partner should be in agreement so you both feel comfortable with the new arrangement. It’s also a good idea to discuss your sleep divorce with any children in the home. Kids may get worried if they see their parents suddenly sleeping apart, so discussing this ahead of time can help provide any necessary reassurance.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it okay for married couples to sleep apart?
Yes, it is okay for married couples to sleep apart if they find it benefits their relationship. A lack of sleep can strain a relationship, so if sleeping separately helps improve their sleep and relationship, then this can be a good thing.
What happens when couples stop sleeping together?
This depends on the context of the relationship. In some cases, couples stop sleeping together because they are not getting along. However, in the case of a sleep divorce, the couple is trying to improve their relationship by consciously sleeping separately for both partners to sleep better.
How do I ask for a sleep divorce?
Whoever is asking for a sleep divorce should be respectful of their partner’s feelings. As mentioned above, this topic may cause the other person to feel insecure or uncertain about their relationship status. Therefore, you should go into this conversation knowing this may come up.
Your partner may be reluctant to the idea, but if you emphasize that you feel it could make a positive impact on your relationship, they could be more open to it. If you and your partner are still having difficulty with the concept of a sleep divorce, it might be helpful to discuss this in couples counseling as well.
Jill Zwarensteyn is the Editor for Sleep Advisor and a Certified Sleep Science Coach. She is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.
- 1. “Snoring”. Yale Medicine. Webpage accessed December 9, 2024. –
- 2. “Sleep apnea”. Mayo Clinic. Last modified April 6, 2024. –
- 3. “Blue light has a dark side”. Harvard Health. 2020. –
- 4. “Over a third of Americans opt for a “sleep divorce”. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. 2024. –
- 5. “Sharpen thinking skills with a better night’s sleep”. Harvard Health. 2014. –
- 6. Olsen MD, Eric J. “Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?”. 2018. –
- 7. “Exercising for Better Sleep”. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Webpage accessed December 9, 2024. –
- 8. “What Are Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency?”. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Last modified March 24, 2022. –
- 9. “How Sleep Affects Your Relationships, According to Science”. Time Magazine. 2018. –
- 10. “Can You Kiss and Hug Your Way to Better Health? Research Says Yes.”. Penn Medicine. 2018. –