1 In 4 Couples Sleep In Separate Beds -- And We're One Of Them

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
Woman asleep with hand on mattress and man wearing eye mas
Scary Mommy and 10'000 Hours/Getty

It’s like a 1950s sitcom up in here. Every night, I stay up late. Every night, he goes to bed early. He kisses me. I tell him goodnight. And he wanders off to the master bedroom. Much later, I creep in. I do my bathroom makeup removal and toothbrushing and etc., cover him up, retrieve my dog. All of this is punctuated by noises that could be coming from an angry wildebeest, except they’re my husband, and he’s dead to the world. He doesn’t have sleep apnea. Sleep studies have cleared him. His whole goddamn family snores like Ugga the fucking Bulldog. It’s genetic. So my German Shepherd and I retire to the guest room, where we shut the door and curl up. Yep: my husband and I sleep in separate beds.

Sleeping in separate beds is a deep and shameful secret we share with no one, because hello, we don’t want to sound like June and Ward Cleaver from Leave It to Beaver or Lucy and Ricky Ricardo on I Love Lucy or whoever the hell on Father Knows Best. Separate beds is this weird outdated TV trope from back when the censors couldn’t even hint that people might be banging each other, because banging each other was shameful and offensive and America was a roiling ball of sexual repression. Now that we can all sext and twerk and the internet is really, really great for porn, separate beds are like a relic of a bygone age when Elvis was The Pelvis and old people still loved Eisenhower, who may or may not have still be president.

Sleeping in the same bed can lead to resentment.

But it turns out that sleeping in separate beds, according to USA Today, might not be so bad after all. The National Sleep Foundation, they report, found a whopping one in four couples are doing it, so one in four of you are keeping the same shameful secret as me, you lying liars who lie by omission. One New York clinical psychologist, Jill Lankler, says, “People are losing sleep. They are waking each other up, and there is this resentment that begins to build in a relationship. If you don’t address that, obviously your relationship is going to suffer, your work suffers. It’s this cascade.”

Dude, I sure as hell resented my husband when we weren’t sleeping in separate beds. When we were dating, he was stealthy. He always made sure to fall asleep after me. And when I woke up confused as to the demon-like noises emanating from the other side of the bed, he petted me until I went to sleep (allegedly) so I have literally no recollection of his snoring, and he bought me earplugs for the times I did. But as he aged, the snoring worsened.

So did his reactions to being woken for it. My husband doesn’t wake up like a normal human. He wakes in a panic of flop-sweat like the zombies are invading now now now now so grab the baseball bat and any available weapons. “WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT?!” he’ll scream, scanning the room in wild-eyed terror. It’s sort of funny if you’re not married to him. Soon I could hear the snoring through the earplugs and it seriously pissed me off. And I couldn’t wake him without some zombie apocalypse, the-Russians-launched-the-Bomb-level of panic.

But … there’s the loss of intimacy thing with separate beds.

Lankler told USA Today that, “Sharing a bed might mean disrupted sleep while sleeping in separate beds could kill intimacy.” But let me tell you, when I want to get laid, I get laid. It may not be as spontaneous as cuddling up to a hard-on in the middle of the night or a quickie in the early morning (c’mon, you know you do it, people, and let go of those pearls, Karen), but my husband will hint at it, and make a comment like, “Wake me up when you come to bed.” Or he’ll even text me in the middle of the day, like “I’m back here and I have nothing to do.”

So we ditch the kids with Disney Plus and go back to our bedroom.

Even with separate beds, you find the time because you make the time. On the weekends, my husband sneaks into the guest room, kicks the dog out, and snuggles. We lay down together and talk, and it’s nice like that. If it leads to un-Cleaverish behavior, well, awesome, but if it doesn’t, that’s okay too.

Notice I say “our room” and “the guest room.” My clothes live in our room. My stuff lives in our room. We don’t keep separate rooms. We keep separate beds, and there’s a huge difference. I sleep elsewhere out of convenience, pure and simple. It’s not a split, but a … compromise, maybe, in service of sleep.

But as the article mentions, you have to do the work. You have to keep lines of communication open. You have to talk and make sure no one feels rejected or sad. Hell, I like having my own blankets and my dog on the bed. He likes having his own blankets and his dog on the bed. After years of co-sleeping, I can finally sprawl, sweet baby Jesus in the manger.

Separate beds means no snoring, no annoying alarms, no children wandering in like ghostly apparitions or possible beginnings of an alien abduction scenario to stare unnervingly until I awaken (for some reason, they only do that to him). It works.

Separate beds work for us. Maybe they work for you. Time to tell the world so we all feel less alone.

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