Coping With Couples' Different Sleep Needs

If you're not sleeping well with your bed partner, you are not alone. But it doesn't have to be long-term problem. These tips should help.

From the WebMD Archives

Ah, sweet sleep for our addled brains. If only love would conquer all -- including sleep problems.

Couples spend nearly one-third of their lives sleeping together, or at least trying to. With different sleep needs, preferences, and problems, it can be as much work trying to get a good night's sleep together as it is getting through our waking hours. And a poor night's rest bodes ill for happy faces in the morning and throughout the day.

If you're not sleeping well with your bed partner, you are not alone. It's a big problem. A National Sleep Foundation Survey found:

  • About 12% of married couples sleep alone.
  • Sleep is related to marital satisfaction. Those with lower marital satisfaction are more likely than their counterparts to report symptoms of insomnia, daytime sleepiness, and they're getting less sleep than they did five years ago.
  • Add children to the mix and you lose even more sleep and experience more symptoms of daytime sleepiness. More than 12% of married adults with children report typically sleeping with a child; a vast majority of these adults (81%) report having a sleep problem.
  • More than one-third of adults report snoring a few times per week. If snoring resonates in your bed, it may send shock waves through your relationship and your bed partner out the door. It may also be a symptom of sleep apnea, a serious disorder in which breathing stops repeatedly during sleep. Sleep apnea has been associated with decreased libido and sexual activity.

So, what to do? You say it's too hot, I say it's too cold; you want the left side and so do I; you like a firm mattress, but I like a softer one. And then there's cover stealing, sleep talking, the pet in the bed, squeaky floors, too much light, too much noise. The list goes on.

Short-Term Fixes

Silence is golden. Even the faintest of sounds, like a car going by or the air conditioner turning on or off, can disturb your sleep. Try some of these sound barriers:

  • Earplugs. Consider using earplugs to quiet any snoring or other noises that go bump in the night. Think about trying some plugs even if you don't think noises wake you at night. You may be surprised at how much better you sleep.
  • Headphones for the TV or music player. If your partner is ready for bed and you feel like listening to TV or some music, try some earphones. Newer models can fit in your pillowcase.
  • Alarm clocks. If you and your partner wake at different times, consider something like a vibrating alarm clock that fits in your pillowcase so it doesn't disturb your partner.
  • Decongestants. If congestion contributes to snoring, see if taking a decongestant provides any relief.