How To Share A Bed With Your Partner Without Losing Your Mind (Or Precious Sleep)

For many couples, sleeping next to one another provides comfort and connection, and fosters intimacy that keeps their relationship healthy. But for those that experience conflicting sleep schedules, sleep disorders, or have different sleep styles, getting a quality night's sleep together is a constant struggle. "While it's true that couples who sleep together harmoniously can report greater emotional and intimate connection, when precious sleep becomes disrupted by a partner, it can have the opposite effect, raising feelings of resentment and all of the consequences of sleep deprivation in the disturbed party," clinical psychologist and sleep medicine specialist Dr. Holly Milling tells Well+Good. "The goal is to find what works best for you and your partner in your current situation."

"[Sleep is] the only health behavior we regularly share with a partner," behavioral scientist Dr. Wendy Troxel shares with "We might occasionally share a meal together or go for a run, but sleep is routinely shared with a partner and vitally important to our health." It is therefore important for couples to identify areas of their sleep life they can adjust or improve upon, both for their individual health and the well-being of their relationships.

How sharing a bed can affect your sleep

Sharing a bed with your partner is proven to have a number of health benefits, ranging from lowering your blood pressure and cortisol levels to reducing inflammation. Sleeping beside the person you love also causes your body to release "happy" chemicals like dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin, which can increase your energy levels and general feelings of contentment. Women, in particular, reap the benefits of sleeping beside their partners. A 2010 study published in "Sleep Research Society" found women in committed, long-term relationships who went to bed with the person they love showed boosted estrogen levels and reported deeper sleep. 

Sharing a bed can also affect your sleep negatively. If you find yourself sharing a bed and notice you aren't sleeping well, a number of sleep disturbances from you or your partner may be the cause. If your partner snores, for example, this may lead to bouts of insomnia and fatigue during the day. Furthermore, if you or your partner suffers from anxiety or depression, the sleep quality of you both can suffer dramatically as well. When couples don't get enough sleep, this opens the door to arguments, poor health habits, and an inability to address conflicts appropriately.

Therefore, it's important for couples to identify areas of their sleep life they can adjust or improve, both for their individual health and the well-being of their relationships. Try these tips to solve common sleep problems and make sleeping together something you enjoy not dread.

Address snoring issues

Snoring is a common sleep issue many couples struggle with. Snoring is the loud, guttural sound that occurs as air flows over the relaxed throat tissue, causing it to vibrate. While most people snore now and again, chronic conditions can make co-sleeping difficult as it can be hard to fall asleep or stay asleep, leading to sleep deprivation and persistent fatigue, mood swings, and resentment.

Snoring can also be an indicator of more serious health conditions, which should be addressed by a medical professional. "If snoring is driving you to sleep in another room, or thrashing is waking you up during the night, that's a good signal that maybe you want to encourage your partner to talk about this issue with their doctor," Dr. Troxel tells "Sleep apnea is often called 'the disease of listeners' because partners are the ones that often motivate people to get treatment."

Figuring out which type of snoring your partner is doing is the first step. "Sleep apnea is when your throat closes down and breathing stops and starts repeatedly throughout the night. This is a potentially serious sleep and health condition, though there is a range from mild to severe," Dr. Omar Ahmed tells Houston Methodist Leading Medicine. "Primary snoring is the classic loud upper airway breathing sounds without any apnea, or cessation of breath. This is a nuisance, not so much a health concern."

Investigate potential sleep disorders

If sleep apnea isn't a concern, it may be beneficial to investigate the potential for other sleep disorders. According to the American Psychiatric Association, sleep disorders directly affect the quality, timing, and amount of sleep a person gets. These disorders can lead to impaired functioning and general distress that make it difficult to live a normal, healthy life.

Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders, during which a person may regularly struggle to get to sleep or stay asleep. In addition to the general stress and impairment this condition causes, insomnia can lead to migraines, daytime sleepiness, headaches, teeth grinding, and even depression. "It's worth taking that next step if you're having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep and it's not solved by applying basic good habits," Dr. Douglas Kirsch, medical director of sleep medicine for Atrium Health, tells Today.

Other sleep disorders like Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), Nightmare Disorder, Narcolepsy, and Circadian Rhythm Sleep-Wake Disorders can cause restlessness while asleep, distress your partner, or impair functioning during the day. But before you jump into problem-solving mode for your partner, Noah Clyman, a therapist who specializes in sleep disorders, recommends asking their opinion first. "It is always best to see if your partner has ideas for how to solve the problem, or how they think you can help," they tell Thrive Global.

Invest in a larger mattress

Investing in a little extra space for sleeping may solve all of your sleep woes. The majority of couples who share a bed sleep on a full-, a queen-, or a king-size mattress, but a queen-size bed is the most popular choice. This mattress measures 60"x80" and allows each person 30" of space, but it also fits into smaller spaces like apartments and guest rooms. A king bed on the other hand is considered a better option for couples because it offers eight extra inches of space per person. At this size, partners have the space to stretch out or move around throughout the night.

As far as mattress materials, you should consider those made from foam or foam hybrids because they are typically better than spring mattresses at isolating your and your partner's movements.

Naturally, a king bed is going to cost more than a queen. Larger, high-quality mattresses can run anywhere from $900 to $2,000+. This means that you and your partner will have to decide if the higher price point is worth better sleep and the health of your relationship. "[A king bed] definitely feels a lot more spacious and luxurious and worth it," Rachel Lewis, a social media strategist and writer, tells "My partner has been sleeping poorly for years and the king-size bed has made it easier for us to test out different techniques for better sleep."

Experiment with optimal room temperatures

Adjusting the temperature of your bedroom can make a huge difference for couples who struggle with co-sleeping harmony. Sleep experts agree that the optimal sleeping temperature is between 65 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit. "This [range] is ideal because variations in our core body temperature, which is regulated by our body's circadian rhythm, drop in the evening and coincide with our brains' melatonin secretion," board-certified sleep medicine physician Dr. Afolabi-Brown tells Real Simple. "Having a cool room environment further promotes this temperature drop and improves our sleep quality."

When your bedroom is too hot or stuffy, or your partner sleeps hotter than asphalt on an August afternoon, you are likely to experience feelings of restlessness and discomfort. It is also likely that you will have trouble falling asleep quickly and staying asleep. The higher external temperatures can interfere with your body's ability to regulate its own temperature and the functioning of your circadian clock, leading to dehydration, fatigue, and ultimately decreasing your ability to obtain restorative, quality sleep.

To keep your room cool even when you sleep next to a hot sleeper, turn down the thermostat at night and invest in a fan or window air conditioner. Keep the windows open for ventilation if the season allows. Alternatively, taking a warm bath approximately one hour before bed promotes melatonin production by lowering your body temperature, making it easier to fall asleep naturally.

Use separate blankets and bedding

The secret to a good night's sleep for couples may simply lie in the use of separate blankets or bedding. The individualized method of utilizing two different comforters or blankets is said to originate from German and Scandinavian customs. The Scandinavian sleep method, as it is known, allows couples to choose blankets that suit their preferred sleeping methods. If you need to be warmer at night than your partner, for example, separate blankets can solve your temperature problems quickly and cheaply. And if your partner is a blanket hog, it easily solves that problem, too.

As Rebecca Thandi Norman, co-founder of the travel app and website Scandinavia Standard, tells Refinery29, "I love sleeping with my own blanket! It improved my quality of sleep in that I wake up less frequently due to being cold or struggling to get enough of the blanket. I like that I can control my body temperature better and that I can bunch the blanket around me as I like. My husband and I have blankets of different warmth; mine is a thermal blanket and his is much thinner. We're both very happy to have a blanket that suits our needs!"

Practice proper sleep hygiene

Sleep hygiene, or good sleep habits, is vital for your and your partner's physical, mental, and emotional health. Jim Shuler, a respiratory therapist and polysomnographer, tells the Lansing State Journal. "If you aren't practicing good sleep hygiene, it may cause insomnia, frequent waking, and daytime drowsiness." Generally, good sleep hygiene practices include no caffeine or nicotine a few hours before bed and creating a comfortable sleep space. 

Similar sleep hygiene practices can make or break a couple's co-sleep comfortability. "When partners lack the same basic hygiene practices, sleeping styles, or if one or both have sleep disorders, this can affect how both individuals act throughout the day as well as in the evening," Stephanie D. McKenzie, a relationship and sleep science coach, tells SheKnows.

If you and your partner are having trouble co-sleeping, consider working on establishing basic sleep hygiene habits. In addition to keeping your bedroom cool, work on following a sleep schedule, and set a bedtime and wake time you both can stick to. Creating routines around sleep together, even on the weekends, can help train you and your partner's bodies to regulate their sleep-wake cycle. You and your partner can also work on limiting your use of blue-light-emitting devices like cell phones or TVs as staring at the bright screens too close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep patterns. Keeping the room as dark as possible with the help of eye masks or blackout curtains may also be helpful.

Adjust your preferred sleep schedules

Sometimes the difficulties couples face with co-sleeping come down to the fact that they have drastically different sleep schedules. Perhaps you and your partner work different shifts and need to sleep at different times of the day. Or maybe you like to stay up late but your partner prefers to get up before the sun rises to get in a workout. The conflicting schedules not only interrupt sleep cycles and cause poor quality sleep, but they can also lead to relationship difficulties and struggling connections.

While change is not always possible, you can try to compromise your sleep schedules so that both parties benefit. You could also look for ways to adjust aspects of your preferred sleep schedules. For example, you could offer to stay up an hour later and have your partner agree to get up an hour earlier. If you like to get up early, offer to get ready in a spare bathroom or set your clothes out the night before to minimize noise and light disturbances.

"The key thing to acknowledge is that you have individual differences; it does not mean you don't like each other or you're doomed," sleep specialist Rafeal Pelayfo tells Huffington Post. Just because you and your partner don't sleep well together doesn't mean you aren't compatible. It just means that you value one another enough to work around the sleep inconsistencies prohibiting you both from resting.

Take a temporary sleep divorce

If you and your partner have tried everything and still can't find the right sleeping groove, it may be time for a sleep divorce. The term may sound frightening, but it is simply a conscious decision a couple makes to temporarily sleep apart. Couples may choose to sleep at different times of day, in separate beds, or in separate rooms.

The goal of a sleep divorce is to allow couples to obtain better quality sleep, usually in an effort to preserve their relationship. However, it isn't as simple as banishing your partner to the couch when their annoying sleep habits push you to the brink of madness. "You have to make the choice consciously together," Shelby Harris, a licensed clinical psychologist and director of sleep health at Sleepopolis, tells CNBC. "It can't be a reactive thing like, 'You snore so much, so I'm just going to sleep somewhere else," or kicking one person out of the bedroom. So, it's not like one person is relegated to the couch ideally. You want to make it so they have a comfortable place."

You should also be intentional about when, where, and how you and your partner engage in a sleep divorce. "Constantly changing where you sleep does not contribute to healthy sleep cycles or regular circadian rhythms," Danielle Kelvas, M.D., chief medical advisor at Sleepline, tells Shape. "I advise patients to have separate rooms and beds, but be intentional about having regular moments of affection and cuddling."

Regularly communicate your sleep needs to your partner

The most important way to solve your sleep struggles is to communicate your sleep needs with your partner. After all, they may be unaware that they are keeping you awake. "Prioritize sleep as a couple," Dr. Troxel tells New York Times Wirecutter. "Think of it as an investment in your relationship, because you really are a better partner as well as more productive and healthier and happier when you sleep better." She recommends talking calmly to each other about challenges you have with sleeping, noting that rash decisions about sleep arrangements she often sees are "out of desperation, [with] one member of the couple abandon[ing]the bed leaving the other partner to feel literally abandoned."

As tired or frustrated as you may feel, it is also important to note that your partner may be struggling with quality sleep too. It isn't fair to ask them to give up all of their sleep habits and preferences to appease your own. "For some reason, couples feel like they can ask their partner to miss out on sleep so they can spend time together," clinical psychologist and behavioral sleep medicine specialist Jennifer L. Martin tells Time. "A 30-minute conversation is likely more important for maintaining a healthy relationship than watching two hours of Netflix." Being proactive and transparent about your needs while also respectful of your partner's will help you both achieve your long-term sleep goals.