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Experts warn couples who sleep separately to consider these things

Couple having difficulty sleeping next to each other. (Getty Images)
Are you considering sleeping separately from your partner? (Getty Images)

Couples are increasingly being more honest about sleeping in separate beds or rooms, whether it's because one partner snores, there's too much tossing and turning, work schedules don't align or they simply prefer their own space.

But while this can work well for many – with celebrities including Cameron Diaz and Brian Cox helping to normalise what some describe as a sleep divorce – two relationship experts have warned of the differences between making a healthy decision that benefits both partners and fuelling disconnection.

Here's a rundown of the pros and cons and key things to consider when ditching the shared bed with your other half.

Why do couples sleep in separate beds?

Bed, morning and relax man with beard sleeping, tired or nap for relief, wellness and rest in home, house or apartment. Fatigue, comfort and face of person cozy, dream and exhausted on bedroom pillow stock photo
If done mindfully and for the right reasons, there can be great benefits. (Getty Images)

For some (with the luxury of choice to do so), sleeping in separate beds may be to strengthen the relationship and wellbeing of each individual, or help new parents get more shut-eye. Meanwhile for others, it may represent disconnection or a breakdown in romance, or be the result of an argument.

Naomi Magnus, psychotherapist and clinical director at North London Therapy Practice, and Hilary Sims, counsellor and founder of Life Balance Counselling, share their thoughts via Opera Beds.

In terms of the potential benefits, Magnus says, "In some relationships, partners find sleeping separately is good for their sexual chemistry and physical intimacy, so on the rare moments they do come together, there’s a feeling of novelty and excitement. Some couples report feeling more attraction when they don’t have to hear each other snoring or talking in their sleep."

Sims adds, "I’ve worked with couples where snoring and restlessness in bed has been an issue. Rather than let this ruin an otherwise good relationship, they have a few nights a week in separate beds. This doesn’t mean the end of the relationship, for some people it enhances it, because they’re able to sleep and function every day without feeling irritated."

Key things to consider when sleeping separately

Woaman sleeping well on the bed at night
It's important to think carefully before making the switch in your relationship's sleep routine. (Getty Images)

Make sure you're on the same page

According to Sims, one partner not being on-board with the decision could create a "major issue" in a relationship, and couples must be prepared to compromise, set rules about frequency, and respect each other.

"Suggesting sleeping in separate beds can lead one partner to resent the other. It’s important to approach the subject carefully and discuss the reasons. Not being on the same page could be the start of a major issue in the relationship," she explains.

"The partner who wants to sleep in separate beds would need to explain their reasons, and the other partner perhaps needs to understand their loved one is making the decision because of their lack of sleep, not their partner as a whole.

"It’s an issue which is easy to personalise and for the partner who isn’t on board to think 'they don’t like me anymore' – but most of the time this isn’t the case."

Be aware of widening emotional or physical distance

"I’ve seen resentment grow in relationships where one partner can’t get a good night’s sleep because of the other person’s snoring, or their incompatible sleeping needs," says Magnus.

"If partners can agree to sleep separately to improve their quality of sleep, and as a result can manage the day-to-day challenges of life better together, then it’s probably working. But if the separate sleeping arrangement is creating emotional or physical distance, it may be time to rethink."

So, if you have a specific goal in mind, like being well rested, don't let closeness on the whole be the sacrifice in the relationship.

Don't let time pass you by without nurturing the relationship

The psychotherapist also warns of the risk of sleeping separately for too long, which may cause an extended period of disconnection that's hard to come back from. "I’ve seen with parents of young children, many relationships will be affected by extended separate sleeping. After a few years of this, it can be difficult to reignite the comfort needed for physical intimacy, and when this happens I generally see a need for couples to relearn how to be close again."

Be mindful of hostility

Magnus points out each couple deals with their struggles differently. "Sometimes, these issues are easily forgiven or laughed at if the relationship is in a good place. But if it’s struggling and the dynamic is tense or hostile, incompatibility sleeping next to each other will be difficult to overcome and can sometimes lead to the breakdown of the partnership."

How to first broach the subject

An attentive female soldier listens as her husband discusses something serious.
Open conversation without finger pointing or shaming can go a long way. (Getty Images)

The first obstacle can often be bringing up the idea of sleeping separately, or any sleep issues. But it seems the real key here is to talk, talk and talk some more.

"Share how you feel, always start with 'I' – 'I struggle to sleep when you…'. Most of the time a partner won’t be aware their actions are affecting their other half, especially if they're asleep. So avoid finger pointing or shaming them. Take ownership for the way things affect you and ask how you can tackle the issue together," advises Magnus.

Sims adds that some boundaries may need to be put in place if the decision is made. "When agreeing to this change, there needs to be some rules set about frequency or the impact on intimacy. Couples have to come up with a solution that will be worthwhile for both parties, which means there might have to be compromise on both sides."

If you've considered all these things, there really is nothing wrong with sleeping separately. "Societally, I think there’s still some shame around couples sharing that they sleep in separate beds, with judgements and preconceived ideas about what that must mean about their relationships. But there shouldn’t be, if a couple has found something that works for them, and if it was a conscious and empowering choice that both partners benefit from," says Magnus in summary.

Watch: Why couples could benefit from sleeping in separate beds