Syncing Up Your Sleep Schedule With Your Partner's Is More Important Than You Think

Have you ever seen someone give a bedroom tour and remark, "Here's where the magic happens"? If you watched almost any episode of MTV's "Cribs" in the early 2000s, you'll understand. And now that you're older, you'll also understand that the real magic happening in the bedroom is often much more G rated: sleep.


If you're in a romantic relationship, you've likely shared comforting cuddles and late-night talks with your other half in bed. However, you may also be familiar with some of the common pitfalls of sleeping together, like stolen covers, deafening snores, and accidentally elbowing each other.

Another issue can be different sleeping patterns. According to Today, around 25% of the population is made up of early risers, 25% are night owls, and the other 50% of people are somewhere in the middle. If you and your partner naturally fall into different schedules, or are forced to because of work or other lifestyle factors, sleeping together might start to feel impossible. Some couples even get a "sleep divorce" to ensure both people have a chance to snooze — separately. However, training yourself to crawl into bed at the same time as your significant other might be worth the effort.


A similar sleeping schedule means more quality time

Reading a book or falling asleep in front of the TV may be comforting, but the moments before you drift off into dreamland are the perfect time to connect with your significant other. Whether you choose to silently spoon, engage in some good ol' pillow talk, or get a little steamy, experts say this quality time is crucial. Wendy Troxel, a clinical psychologist who studied couples' sleeping patterns, gave one piece of advice in an interview with The Wall Street Journal: "Don't sacrifice the quality couple time before bed." For many, going to bed together is the only way to find quiet, distraction-free time together.


Marriage expert Melissa Orlov agrees, especially for couples with children. She wrote for Psychology Today, "Particularly for parents, whose households may not quiet down until after the kids are in bed, the time immediately before bedtime can be an important connection point when you can chat about your day, do something fun together, cuddle or be more intimate."

One scientific explanation for why this time is so sacred comes down to oxytocin, often referred to as "the cuddle hormone." The Better Sleep Council explains that partners who sleep together experience a boost in oxytocin, which promotes feelings of trust, empathy, and relaxation.

Couples who snooze together snooze better

Partners with unsynchronized schedules might wreck each other's quality of sleep. While one person dozes off, the other might be clanking around in a nearby room. And when the night owl finally gets some shuteye, the morning bird is switching on a noisy coffeemaker. Unsurprisingly, then, sleeping together can improve sleep. "Sleeping with a romantic partner or spouse shows to have great benefits on sleep health including reduced sleep apnea risk, sleep insomnia severity, and overall improvement in sleep quality," Brandon Fuentes, a researcher of psychiatry, shared in an American Academy of Sleep Medicine news release.


A 2020 study published in Frontiers in Psychology also concluded that couples who sleep together experience more REM sleep, as well as fewer REM sleep disturbances. REM sleep is an important phase of sleep necessary for emotional processing and memory consolidation, per Sleep Foundation.

But what if you and your other half simply can't fall asleep at the same time? Wendy Troxel shared with The Zoe Report, "[O]ur sleep-wake preferences are largely genetically determined (about 50%), so you can't just override your biology because you want to be in sync with your partner. [...] What ends up happening is the night owl tries to fall asleep much earlier than their biological clock tells them they are ready, leading to an inability to fall asleep, frustration, and insomnia." If you can't synchronize your schedules, she recommends donning an eye mask and earplugs to ensure you still catch quality ZZZs.


Synchronized sleep could strengthen your relationship

A shared sleep schedule and relationship satisfaction can be a chicken-or-the-egg situation — because after all, if you're already unhappy in your partnership, you likely won't prioritize going to bed when your significant other does. Regardless of which comes first, research has found a clear correlation between different bedtimes and relationship conflict, emotional distance, and less frequent sex (per The Wall Street Journal). The study on REM sleep also found that partners with deeper relationships were more likely to have similar sleep patterns, suggesting that close couples choose to hit the sack together (via Frontiers in Psychiatry).


Marcia Naomi Berger, a psychotherapist and marriage expert, also argues that sleeping at different times can create a rift between you and your lover. "It's a recipe for feeling lonely and emotionally (and physically) detached from each other," she told HuffPost.

Berger also added that unresolved conflict that occurred during the day can be the real reason behind different sleep schedules, especially for those who don't naturally have an "owl" or "lark" chronotype. There's no need to follow the old "don't go to bed angry" adage. However, avoiding important conversations — and avoiding each other when it's time to turn off the lights — might only drive you further apart over time.