Do You Need a Sleep Divorce?

Sleep divorce

Adapted from a story by Sara Moniuszko, CBS News, updated July 15, 2023 

About one in five seniors say they have a sleep divorce, where they occasionally or consistently sleep in another room from their partner, according to a survey from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). 

The practice of sleeping separately is known as a “sleep divorce,” and is meant to help you fall asleep and stay asleep without disruptions such as snoring, stolen covers or early alarms. 

“We know that poor sleep can worsen your mood, and those who are sleep deprived are more likely to argue with their partners. There may be some resentment toward the person causing the sleep disruption which can negatively impact relationships,” Dr. Seema Khosla, a pulmonologist and spokesperson for the AASM. “Getting a good night’s sleep is important for both health and happiness, so it’s no surprise that some couples choose to sleep apart for their overall well-being.” 

The group’s survey of 2,005 adults in the U.S. found that 43% of millennials engage in sleep divorce, followed by 33% of those in Generation X, 28% of those in Generation Z and 22% of baby boomers. 

“Although the term ‘sleep divorce’ seems harsh, it really just means that people are prioritizing sleep and moving into a separate room at night when needed,” Khosla added. 

Related: The Quest for a Good Night’s Sleep

Should you try a sleep divorce? 

“There are benefits for some partners to sleep separately,” Dr. Erin Flynn-Evans, a consultant to the AASM. “Studies demonstrate that when one bed partner has a sleep disorder it can negatively affect the other sleeper. For example… when one has insomnia. Similarly, when… one is a night owl the other is an early bird, these differing sleep preferences can negatively impact both partners’ sleep.” 

On the other hand, sleeping with your partner can help in detecting conditions you may have been unaware of, as sleep clinicians use reports from bed partners to help identify sleep disorders. 

“For example, a person might report that their bed partner snores loudly, prompting them to seek treatment for sleep apnea,” said Flynn-Evans. 

Dr. Daniel Shade, a sleep specialist with Allegheny Health Network, said if couples are honest with themselves, they’ll likely know whether there’s a problem. “You’re snoring and thrashing about… or you have to use the bathroom many times in a night,” Shade said, noting other factors that may also affect sleep, like differing preferences in light, temperature or even TV usage at night. 

But, if there are no sleep problems, Shade said sleeping in the same bed is better. “We release oxytocin and some other chemicals that are called ‘the cuddling hormones,’ and things that give us a good feeling and bring us closer to that person… we’re with.” 

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