Top 7 Bedroom Challenges Couples Face—And How To Snooze Happily Ever After

by Amy Dimond, Director, Brand Communications, Brooklyn Bedding

According to a 2015 National Sleep Foundation survey, an estimated 23% of American couples are now sleeping apart. Dr. Neil Stanley, a sleep expert at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, says that’s largely because couples who share a bed suffer from 50% more sleep disturbances than those who sleep alone. Though bed sharing was once viewed as a litmus test for healthy marriages, couples are increasingly working to find a balance between their needs for closeness and a good night’s rest. While creating separate bedrooms is an obvious solution, many couples find their desire for intimacy and sheer proximity outweigh the drawbacks of sleep disturbances.

If you’re one of those couples willing to stick it out in the bedroom, here are a few coping mechanisms for the top 7 contributors to sleep loss.

1. Snoring

Snoring and sleep apnea can be nothing short of a nightmare for lighter sleep partners—but taking stock of the current situation is essential says Suzan E. Jaffe, Ph.D., a board certified psychiatrist and expert in behavioral sleep disorders.

What to do about it:

Mask the noise: Earplugs, noise cancelling earbuds or headbands and white noise sound machines or apps are all straightforward fixes if your partner is a light snorer. Turning a fan or AC unit on high can have the same effect. If the cause of snoring is nasal congestion, then nasal strips are a safe way to open air passages and reduce heavier breathing.

Change sleep positions (or get a new bed): Most sleepers who are prone to snoring do so more heavily when sleeping on their backs, but training a partner to sleep on their side is tricky. Your best bet is to ensure your bed is not too hard. To sleep on your side, you need adequate pressure point relief for your hips, neck and shoulders. Mattresses featuring latex or a latex alternative foam that provides just enough support with the right amount of bounce is optimal.

Rule out sleep apnea: More drastic measures should be taken if your sleep partner snores heavily or suffers from a sleep disorder. Anti-snoring devices like mouthpieces are often the treatment of choice for patients who suffer from mild to moderate sleep disorders. CPAP machines are not only helpful but a medical necessity for people who snore severely or have sleep apnea.

2. Insomnia

Some cases of insomnia are acute, while others develop into a longer-term problem due to factors like sleep disorders, anxiety and depression. Whatever the underlying cause, researchers at the National Sleep Foundation attribute most insomnia to one of two issues in the sleep cycle: too much “awake drive” or too little “sleep drive.”

What to do about it:

Stick to a sleep schedule: A consistent sleep schedule trains your body for bedtime and encourages that coveted “sleep drive” at the right time. Sending your brain relaxing signals can also help, like soaking in a warm bath, using essential oils like lavender, sipping herbal tea with chamomile or trying breathing exercises, which mimic your body’s natural sleep response.

Find a bed with enhanced notion isolation: If your ill-timed “awake drive” is causing sleep deprivation for both you and your sleep partner, consider investing in a hybrid mattress that limits the transfer of motion. A quality hybrid mattress consists of multiple layers of foam combined with individually pocketed springs that are designed to respond independently to compression, limiting the impact of any movement across the surface of the mattress.

3. Temperature Differences

Perhaps you experience night sweats while your companion’s feet are ice cold. There are numerous reasons why one of you might be sleeping too hot. Figuring out a happy medium for both of you may come down to sleep science: human skin temperature can hover above or below the average of 91 degrees, but the ideal sleep temperature is 88 degrees.

What to do about it:

Invest in a specialized cooling mattress: Elite mattresses with advanced cooling technology often offer phase change molecule (PCM) surface infusion. If your skin temperature is above 88 degrees, the micro-encapsulated PCM will liquify, disseminating a cooling effect. If your skin temperature goes below 88 degrees, the PCM will solidify, ensuring you’re cool but not cold.

Upgrade your sleep accessories: Sleep accessories like bamboo sheets and latex pillows, derived from natural sources that are inherently more breathable, also contribute to a cooler night’s sleep. Another simple solution may be purchasing two different blankets—one for each sleep partner.

4. Sleep-Related Movement Disorders

Medical professionals have identified approximately 80 different sleep disorders—the top three most prevalent conditions being insomnia, sleep apnea and Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). Along the broad spectrum of sleep disorders are conditions that involve movement disorders, causing sleep disturbance for both the sleeper and the sleep partner. Among the most common of these types of conditions is Periodic Limb Movement Disorder, which is exhibited when you move, jerk or flail your limbs while sleeping. Bruxism (clenching or grinding teeth throughout the night) causes a host of issues, including dental problems and headaches, and affects nearly 1 in 10 sleepers.

What to do about it:

Get a bigger mattress (or two): Choosing a larger size mattress that reduces motion transfer can help put distance between you and a spouse that flails. A split California King can be the ultimate divide between you and a bumpy night with your partner, truly isolating you from restlessness and outward activity.

Visit a dentist: If your spouse suffers from teeth grinding, consulting a dentist is important. A properly fitted mouth guard can minimize the damage for your partner while providing you a quieter night’s sleep.

5. Frequent Trips to the Bathroom

Many researchers believe getting up once in the night to go to the bathroom is normal, particularly as we age (as we get older we produce less of an anti-diuretic hormone that helps us retain fluid). Nocturia is defined as the need to get up to go to the bathroom frequently and it is one of the most common causes of sleep loss. If you or your spouse needs to get up to go to the bathroom more than twice a night, it’s a good idea to visit a urologist to first identify the root cause.

What to do about it:

Take strategic bathroom breaks: You can avoid more frequent trips to the bathroom by emptying your bladder as much as possible before bedtime. That means decreasing your fluid intake 2 to 3 hours before you go to bed and abstaining from drinks that contain caffeine or alcohol at least 6 hours before you turn in.

Double check your mattress: If your partner’s nocturia is depriving you of sleep, identify the specifics. If it’s the noise your spouse makes when he or she gets up, use earplugs or other noise cancelling solutions. If it’s the movement, ensure your mattress isn’t contributing to the problem.

6. Conflicting Sleep Schedules

Maybe she’s a night owl and you’re an early riser. Maybe he works the late shift and you like to get a quiet moment to yourself before the kids get up. Either way, both of you can suffer from not only sleep deprivation but a lower quality relationship when your schedules are so radically incompatible.

What to do about it:

Designate a “Get Ready” room: Your partner is neither wrong nor right when it comes to sleep preferences. You each simply have different needs and biology. Commit to being considerate if your spouse is trying to sleep—and be aware that both noise and light sensitivity play a key role in sleep disturbance. Therapists like Toronto based Kimberly Moffit suggest changing in another room if you have to get up early to go to work.

Get cozy outside of the bedroom: If you like to catch up on your reading in bed, ask yourself why you prefer that spot. Is it because the bed is more comfortable than any other spot outside the bedroom, or because you actually want to maintain a physical connection to your spouse? Creating a cozy place in the family room or home office might be the best solution.

7. Two Love Languages

Part of our bedtime compatibility has to do with emotional intimacy, which can take on many forms in the bedroom, from cuddling to heart-to-heart conversations in the dark. But what if, after all that bonding, you’d like to spoon and your spouse just wants to put a fork in it and go to sleep?

What to do about it:

Schedule cuddle time: Practically speaking, try to set aside enough time to cuddle before both of you are ready to nod off. Most partners who are spooning-averse simply can’t fall asleep with someone touching them. Allowing enough time for meaningful, physical contact while you’re awake gives the spooner some much needed intimacy and the anti-snuggler the gift of space later, when it really counts.

Snuggle on your side: If you’re one of the lucky ones who can fall asleep snuggling but unlucky enough to have a partner who snores, you can actually delay the inevitable by spooning. That’s because spooning requires a side position, which is the least likely posture to cause snoring. Even if your partner does eventually roll into lumberjack territory, you’ll be fast asleep.


This article originally appeared in Sleep Retailer eNews on June 14, 2018.

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