Are You and Your Partner Sleep Compatible?

Sleep disorders and incompatible nighttime habits can drive couples apart at night. But solutions do exist.

From the WebMD Archives

Are you and your partner compatible in bed -- when it's time to sleep, we mean? You like to turn in early, snuggled under a pile of blankets in the pitch dark. He's a night owl, watching TV or reading into the wee hours of the night. When he finally does doze off -- oftentimes with the light still glaring -- he hardly falls into a restful slumber. Tossing and turning, he balls up the sheets and sometimes kicks them off the bed entirely. Then comes the chain-saw like snoring and sputtering, interspersed with sudden jerky leg movements. As daylight creeps through the blinds, you're cursing it -- and your partner. Sounds like maybe there's a little sleep incompatibility in your house.

Sleep Incompatibility: Scores of Couples Suffer

If the restless sleep described above sounds familiar, you're not alone. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) says that three out of every four adults wake frequently during the night, or they snore. In an NSF survey of women ages 18 to 64, more than half said they sleep poorly more than a few nights a week. And restless sleepers feel it the next day. Forty three percent of those less-than-stellar sleepers blamed poor sleep for interfering with their next day's activities.

The culprit? In many cases it's a snoring or otherwise incompatible sleeping partner.

Sleep experts agree that snoring, which can indicate the serious health problem sleep apnea, presents the biggest conflict for couples at bedtime. But a host of other compatibility hurdles exist. They range from the physiological -- like differences in body temperature -- to plain old differences in personal preferences. Personal preferences, which include everything from how firm a mattress should be to preferred bedtimes to whether the windows should be open or closed, can be just as damaging to a good night's sleep as snoring. That's especially true once couples get past the initial starry-eyed stages of courtship.

Sleep Incompatibility: It Increases With Age

"If you're young and madly in love, it's a little easier to put up with things," says Helene A. Emsellem, MD. Emsellem is director of the Center for Sleep & Wake Disorders in Washington, D.C.