I will discuss what my data shows, how easy or difficult I found this strategy to implement, and what previous research says. These three factors will be combined for an overall score and grade on how effective sleeping solo is at improving sleep quality.
HOW COULD SLEEPING NEXT TO SOMEONE IMPAIR YOUR SLEEP QUALITY?
It’s amazing to me how many clients I see with sleeping difficulties who have partners that sleep brilliantly. They go to bed each night, and are faced with a partner who falls asleep as soon as they get to bed, remains asleep for the night, and then bounces out of bed refreshed the next morning.
Meanwhile, they report being up all night: awake, alert, worried and frustrated.
In some cases, their partner is too hot. At other times, they snore or make too much noise. Regardless of what their partner does, it only further escalates their distress that they are not sleeping well while their partner sleeps excellently, night after night.
What if they just decided to sleep in another room or another bed? Would it help their sleep, or is their partner’s sleep just something that they focus on too much? Let’s find out…
For the first week, I decided to sleep next to my girlfriend like I typically do. I personally don’t seem to have any issue sleeping next to her, even if she sometimes snores, but I do consider myself to be a pretty good sleeper these days, especially after everything that I have learnt. I wonder if she would sleep better apart from me though, as I have been told that I also snore at times.
For the second week, I asked my girlfriend to sleep in a different room and had the queen bed that we normally share all by myself. It was nice for a change, but I have no idea if it led to a better sleep or not…
Comparison: Bed partner vs No bed partner
Based on my sleep diary data, the findings were as follows:
- The number of awakenings:
- In bed alone – 1 per night
- Sharing bed – 1.29 per night
- less is better
- Time in bed:
- Sharing bed – 7 hours 34 minutes
- In bed alone – 7 hours 33 minutes
- 8 hours is ideal for me
- Time to bed:
- In bed alone – 11:49pm
- Sharing bed – 11:59pm
- 11:30pm is ideal for me
- Total sleep time:
- Sharing bed – 7 hours 3 minutes
- In bed alone – 7 hours 2 minutes
- 7 hours 30 minutes is ideal for me
- Sleep onset latency:
- Sharing bed – 10.71 minutes
- In bed alone – 12.86 minutes
- quicker is better
- Wake after sleep onset:
- In bed alone – 17.86 minutes
- Sharing bed – 20.71 minutes
- less is better
- Rise time:
- Sharing bed – 7:33 am
- In bed alone – 7:22 am
- 7:30am is ideal for me
- Sleep quality:
- In bed alone – 4.14/5
1. Sharing bed – 4.14/5
- Sleep efficiency:
- In bed alone – 93.22%
- Sharing bed – 93.08%
- higher is better
AND THE WINNER IS…
With a count of 4.5 points to 4.5 points, it is a tie! Being in bed alone led to fewer awakenings, less time awake during the night, an earlier bedtime, and a better sleep efficiency. Sharing a bed led to slightly more time in bed, more sleep time, a quicker sleep onset and a later rise time. The differences between the two conditions on all of these variables aren’t much, indicating that for me it didn’t make too much of a difference.
IS SLEEPING ALONE A GOOD SLEEP STRATEGY?
IS IT EFFECTIVE?
It depends on what you are like and what your partner is like. For me, as long as I go to bed at the right time for me instead of when my partner is ready for sleep, I will still fall asleep quickly and have a great night’s sleep.
I, therefore, give the effectiveness of this strategy a 13/25.
CAN IT BE APPLIED?
If your partner’s obstructive sleep apnea. snoring, restless legs, sleepwalking, sleeptalking, night terrors or REM behavioural sleep disorder is impacting your sleep and you have another bed or bedroom that you can use, it is pretty easy to try this instead of driving yourself crazy trying to sleep next to them. More people sleep separately to their partner than most people realise, and if you are able to snuggle pre-bed and in the morning, and just retreat to different beds for sleep, are you really missing out on much?
I, therefore, give the applicability of this strategy a 15/25.
IS IT SCIENTIFIC?
Dittami and colleagues (2007) tracked 10 heterosexual couples over 28 nights and made sure that they slept at least 10 nights together and 10 nights apart during that period. Some interesting findings occurred, as sharing a bed with a partner had negative effects on sleep for women, but positive effects for men. Men slept worse by themselves and said that they slept better with their partners. Women reported better sleep when sharing a bed after sex, but their objective sleep measures showed worse sleep than when they were by themselves (Dittami et al., 2007).
A 2010 study by Hasler and Troxel found that when men reported better sleep the night before, they tended to have less conflict during the day with their partner. When women had less conflict during the day with their partner, they then tended to have better objective sleep that night (Hasler & Trowel, 2010). A male partner who sleeps well can positively influence his partner’s sleep, but he could improve his own sleep that night by trying to minimise how many negative interactions he has with his partner when he is sleep deprived or irritable (Hasler & Troxel, 2010).
A more recent study by Spiegelhalder and colleagues (2017) supported the findings that men may sleep better with a partner than alone, as they increased their total sleep time when with a partner, and reported a better quality of sleep too. Women’s sleep was no different alone or together, and it also didn’t seem to matter whether it was in their own sleeping environment or their partners (Speigelhalder et al., 2017).
I, therefore, give the science of this strategy a 25/50.
Overall, sleeping alone as a way to sleep better gets a score of 13/25 + 15/25 + 25/50 =
WHAT I RECOMMEND
If by sleeping in separate beds you can both get a good night’s sleep without feeling frustrated with each other, then it may be worth it. More people sleep separately to their partner than you might realise. If you snuggle together before you go to sleep and then climb into bed with one another once you wake up in the morning, are you really missing out on anything?
Alternatively, If your partner gets really upset by not sleeping together and you don’t mind sharing the bed with them, it is probably better to keep trying together until you get used to it. Conflict can negatively impact your sleep and subsequently your relationship, and sleeping together can lead to a greater perception of sleep quality and higher relationship satisfaction.
Either way, talk to your partner if it is becoming a problem, and do what is best for your relationship. Humans can adjust to most things over time. By persisting with something that is initially difficult and realising that it is getting easier with time, it can eventually get to the point where it’s your new normal. This can be the case for sleeping together or sleeping alone.
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