Intimate love — 14 November 2010
To share or not to share your bed with your spouse?

Sharing a bed is one of the privileges of committed partnership. Children sometimes complain about having to sleep alone while their parents have the comfort of nighttime companionship. Yet, sharing a bed is not always cozy, warm and intimate. The option of sleeping apart is fraught with its own emotional and relationships hardships. So what is a couple to do?

Though the purpose of sleep has not been fully determined, researchers believe that sleep has physical and mental restorative functions necessary for healthy functioning. We all know the impact of loss of sleep and thus feel compelled to get a good night rest and may even cherish this experience.

Psychologically, sleeping together may be reactivating our early maternal bonding. Sleeping in the same bed affords couples the physical and emotional connection of safety, security and special intimacy. A mate of a partner who works at night describes sleeping alone as a “cold and lonely experience.”

With all the benefits of sharing each other’s warmth and presence in bed, some mates’ sleep is disturbed, which compels them to opt for a single bed. A 2001 National Sleep Foundation survey found that 12 percent of Americans sleep alone and that “lower marital satisfaction impacts sleep habits.”

Common physical hardships in sharing a bed entail; difficulties with tossing and turning, blankets tug of war, bedroom temperature differences, snoring, teeth grinding, frequent awakening, nightmares, sleep walking, variance in bedtime and awakening schedules, sleeping with children or pets.

The National Sleep Foundation survey found that 75 percent of adults frequently wake up at night or snore, the two main reasons for their partners’ choice to sleep elsewhere. They also found that more than half of surveyed women, between 18 and 64 years of age reported sleeping poorly a few nights a week, which interfered with their next day’s activities.

Emotional hindrances to sleeping together are variances in the need for cuddling during sleep, disparity in sexual interests and angry feelings.

The National Association of Home Builders’ survey reported that builders and architects predict that, “More than 60 percent of custom houses would have dual master bedrooms by 2015.” Some builders say more than a quarter of their current projects already have this housing configuration.

Whatever the reasons for preferred dual master bedroom home designs may be, they do not necessarily mean that more couples will be sharing separate sleeping arrangements in the future. As essential as a good night sleep is, it is wise for mates to negotiate solutions that suit both of them best.

• Consider that a good night’s sleep is a necessity and each of you must be accommodated to achieve it.
• Use help of experts to facilitate compromises that will enable you to continue to share a bed.
• Realize that sleeping together has emotional, sensual, connection and intimacy benefits not accomplished through “visitations.”
• Repair your relationship issues to preserve your desire for closeness and your precious union.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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