Falling asleep tucked into the arms of the one you love may sound romantic—but it isn’t always the path to sweet dreams. Sleeping side by side can yield 50 percent more nighttime disturbances than snoozing solo, making it no wonder that nearly one in four American couples sleeps separately, a la I Love Lucy. Even among bed-sharers, only 13 percent cuddle close, while 63 percent sleep without touching their partner.
It’s all too easy for the bedroom to become a battlefield for arguments over the temperature, space, the blankets, and even the size of your bed. Women are especially prone to sleeping less soundly when they’re next to a partner. (Men, on the other hand, tend to sleep better with a woman by their side.) One possible reason for the gender gap: Women may have evolved to be lighter sleepers because of their traditional role in caring for infants. Another possibility: Women may be more likely to be woken up by snoring, which is twice as common among men.
Still, there are plenty of benefits to getting touchy-feely under the sheets. Cuddling—whether you’re spooning all night long or just for 10 minutes before turning your backs to each other and drifting off—triggers your body to release chemicals that help you bond with your partner, de-compress after a stressful day, and feel downright blissful. The magic ingredient: the hormone oxytocin (aptly nicknamed the cuddle chemical). And oxytocin has myriad benefits. It relieves pain, boosts your immune system, and relieves stress. And here’s the bedtime winner—it can even help you sleep.
You don’t have to choose between pillow talk and separate bedrooms in order to wake up rested, though. Here are some strategies for sleeping better together.
Create an Ideal Sleep Environment.
Disagreements over bedroom temperature top the list of bed-sharing complaints, but there are ways to make it work. Start with a room that’s not too cold or too warm—between 60 and 67 degrees is ideal. Then, consider making your bed “European style” with a separately-folded duvet on each side of the bed. That way, you won’t be freezing when your partner kicks the blankets off in the middle of the night.
Rethink Your Bed.
A good mattress can be an investment in your health—and your relationship—yet some 28 percent of couples point to their mattress as the weak link in getting a good night’s sleep together. If you have the space, consider whether a bigger one could give you space to stretch out without interfering with each other’s sleep. Or, consider a memory foam mattress, on which you may be less likely to feel the movements on the other side of the bed. If you’re at odds over how firm each of you likes your mattress, look into a mattress made with air chambers that can be adjusted for different sleeping styles, or try two extra-long twin beds pushed together with a mattress topper to form a king-sized bed.
Confront Snoring Together.
Snoring is the third most common gripe among bed-sharers. Sure, a pair of earplugs and a white noise machine may help to cut down on the din, but snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea, which can be life-threatening. Regular snoring has also been linked with hypertension and can increase the risk of heart disease. In other words, it’s worth seeing a doctor to sort out what’s going on.