We will spend around a third of our lives asleep. But here’s an interesting statistic: according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, about 60 million people a year report suffering either long-term or occasional sleep disturbance. That’s nearly one fifth of the entire US population! It’s also estimated that 60% of the population share a bed with someone else. Coincidence? We’re suspicious.
In the name of science, we’re taking a closer look at whether sharing a bed is good or bad for our own health and our partners in respect to three key areas:
- The Physiological Effect: Studies that measure brain-wave activity or body movement have shown that sleeping with a partner in bed (a.k.a. dyadic-sleep) reveal poorer sleep quality compared to sleeping alone. The dyadic sleepers experience less REM sleep and increased physical activity during the night, compared to those who sleep by themselves.
- Emotional Factors: You may think you’re sleeping better with your partner because of attachment that leads to feeling anxious when you are apart. While dyadic sleep appears to decrease sleep quality, separation from your partner actually worsens sleep problems because of the effects of attachment anxiety.
- Syncing Schedules: Partners influence mealtimes and pre-bedtime rituals during the day – which flows into sleep times and your internal body clock. Research found that couples whose sleep-wake preferences were disjointed had poorer sleep qualities than those who had similar sleeping patterns. Essentially, couples who naturally wake up and go to bed at similar times have been found to be more satisfied in their relationship.
Given what we know about each area, you can argue that in the case of head versus heart, the jury is still out. But what about the compromises you can make to help you both catch enough shut-eye? In the name of love, of course we have to share those too.
You love to watch TV in bed.
Solution: You may not realize that the particular blue wavelength of light emitted from screens — be it the TV, a tablet or even a smartphone — tricks our internal clocks into thinking it’s time to be awake and alert. This means that while you may think your partner is peacefully sleeping while you watch your favorite TV show, you are actually interfering with their sleep. We personally recommend keeping devices outside of the bedroom and fully support bringing back the good old-fashioned alarm clock. –
You both go to bed at different times.
Solution: The night owl and the early riser may be compatible in every other aspect however when it comes to getting enough sleep, the number 1 cause of disruption is created by differing bed times. In today’s world (link to Cultural Stress), it can be exceptionally hard to switch off and many of us keep going until the very last second before we close our eyes. We propose creating a couples routine the hour before bed and while it may sound like something for children, a bedtime schedule (even our iPhone’s are offering us this now) Try turning off devices and enjoy a warming cup of decaffeinated tea. Reading versus using a screen can have a very powerful effect or engaging in a positive conversation about the day you both enjoyed or your plans ahead. Creating a relaxed mind and body is a very important step for getting you both a peaceful night’s sleep.
You have a different approach to eating and drinking before bed.
Solution: After a long day, it is easy to sometimes end up eating and drinking right before bed but watch out, your body and mind has simply lulled you into a false sense of sleepy security. Try to limit caffeine. Caffeine can cause sleep problems up to ten to twelve hours after drinking it! Keep dinnertime earlier where possible and try to avoid heavy and rich foods too close to bed – 2 hours minimum before sleep is always preferable. And try avoid alcohol before bed – even during all those holiday parties. While a nightcap may help you relax, it interferes with your sleep cycle once you do get to sleep.
You tend to move around a lot in the night.
Solution: Take a look at your bedroom and see if you can make any changes in your environment. Removing clutter and keeping the room cool and dark (at night) can have a huge impact on the quality of your sleep and how much you move. Daily exercise, specifically the more vigorous exercise like running, increases the amount of time you spend in the deep, restorative stages of sleep – this means less movement for the both of you. It is worth nothing that you should try to finish workouts at least 3 hours before bedtime to allow your body some time to recover. If you do want to do something right before bed, why not try gentle stretches to draw out any final elements of tension.