‘Sleep divorce’ is on the rise: are couples bedder off alone?

New research suggests shared slumber is increasingly hard to come by thanks to snoring and duvet wars, writes JOANNE SAVAGE

By The Newsroom
Friday, 12th February 2021, 8:00 am
More and more couples are sleeping apart thanks to the stresses of snoring and duvet hogging
More and more couples are sleeping apart thanks to the stresses of snoring and duvet hogging

Snoring unsurprisingly tops the list of annoying traits, but other major causes include being too hot, disturbing them when they get up for the loo, taking work to bed and even cutting toenails or belching in the boudoir.

One in four people across the UK have said their or their partner’s bedtime habits have even caused arguments, and over one in ten have broken up with a partner because of them, according to research by Eve Sleep.

A whopping eight out of ten adults (86%) say they have trouble sleeping generally and the research has found that the top reasons behind disrupted sleep are being too hot or cold at night (51%), multiple trips to the loo (28%), being a light sleeper (26%); and notably, given the strange times we find ourselves in amidst the global Covid pandemic and ongoing lockdown restrictions, one in four of us are stressed about current affairs from the rapacity of the virus to Brexit and US politics.

There has been a rise in what’s called ‘sleep divorce’ or couples sleeping in separate beds, with nearly one in two often sleeping apart because of their bedtime habits, with an average of four nights per week of couples’ sleeping separately.

The main reason for doing this was snoring (41%), tossing and turning in bed (25%), enjoying the extra space in another bed (19%), and being a lighter sleeper than their partner (19%).

Even if they are sharing the same bed, over half (54%) of couples go to bed at different times or wake their partner up by watching something on their phone or on the TV (25%) or when they climb into bed (22%).

Snoring (is that the sound of an earthquake, the roof being blown off the house or a constipated rhinoceros?)is well-established as top of the list of irritating bedtime habits (47%) that may cause you to leave a shared bed for the shelter and silence of a solitary one, with tossing and turning an annoying second (27%) and falling asleep at different times to your partner a third reason for sleep divorce (22%).

What other habits cause couples to part in the quest for more restful slumber?

Well, hogging the duvet (31%), clipping toenails (30%), your partner taking up too much space in bed (27%), eating (24%), leaving clothes everywhere rather than in the wash basket (21%), and finally, bringing work to bed by, for example, working on a laptop, taking calls or checking a work phone (21%).

Dave Gibson, sleep expert for Eve Sleep, commented: “It is certainly true that the year just gone was one of the worst years for sleep in recent memory.

“Many couples are now essentially living at work with a complete shake-up of their routines. The resulting blurring of work, rest, play, and bedtimes has caused them to be both out of sync with their natural sleep patterns and with their partners, adding to a restless night.

“There are simple ways we can try and overcome these bedroom battles such as establishing a bedtime routine with your partner, tackling the temperature battle by changing your duvet or by leaving devices in the kitchen, all helping you become the perfect bedfellow.”

Gibson’s top tips for better sleep for both you and your partner are, firstly, that you try to get in sync.

The key to getting both the right quantity and quality of sleep is to go to bed and wake up at the same time, ideally, if you can manage it, seven days a week.

So try and go to bed and wake up as a couple.

If not, try to set at least one consistent time between you such as setting the same morning alarm, which is easier to control.

Next up is silencing the snoring, always a pesky problem likely to come between you and your beloved, in some cases perhaps even leading all the way to the actual divorce courts - and this is not even a joke.

If your partner, or you, is a snorer the first thing to do is to encourage them to sleep on their side rather than on their back. Then, if needed, try wearing earplugs or introducing white noise to block out the snoring. But if all else fails, don’t be afraid to slip off to the spare room or sofa - it’s the only option to avoid murderous thoughts as it approaches dawn and you realise you only have three more hours before the blasted alarm goes off and you have to get up to work remotely on the dreaded Jones’ report while home schooling three children, doing the laundry and cooking for five.

Next, put duvet hogging to bed: it is selfish, inconsiderate and basically a colonisation of the sleep space likely to leave your partner shivering and embittered until the wee small hours when they may finally crack if they do not have another place to lay their head in the home or a plethora of alternative blankets on standby.

A nightly duvet tug-of-war is going to lead to frayed tempers and resentment rather than deep, deep sleep. So buy a duvet which is larger in size than the bed you are sleeping in - problem solved.

Next up, try to unwind together. Avoid watching the news late at night and perhaps learn instead to meditate and relax within a consistent bedtime routine to switch off from our worries (and none of us have any shortage of these thanks to Covid). Make sure you create a healthy evening and sleep routine including baths, books, yoga, relaxation and meditation.

Finally, try to create the sense of a ‘new commute’. While the commute to and from work cost both time and money, it also created a useful transition period. If you are working at home, try to recreate these transitions and boundaries between home and work. In the morning you could pop out together to get a take-away coffee and then come back home to work.

It has been shown that millennials get more heated when it comes to sleep patterns being disrupted, as 54% of the age group say the bedtime habits in their relationship cause arguments versus 18% of the 45-54s and as little as four per cent of the over 65s, who are probably resigned or well inured to the habits of their partners after so many years of shared sleeping.

Sam Owen, relationship coach and psychologist, said: “Our bedrooms are no longer our safe space to relax together after a busy day, instead they are classrooms, offices and even makeshift gyms. Winding down before bed with your partner can help you reconnect after a stressful or busy day, helping you to off-load the mind and provide that much needed love and support to one another.”

Owen’s top tips for harmonious sleeping patterns with your partner are worth considering.

Firstly, make your bedtime ritual one of calmness and closeness. Do something calming that you both enjoy, even if it’s two separate activities with bodies touching. The importance of integrating physical touching cannot be underestimated as it promotes the production of a feel-good hormone called oxytocin which makes us feel safe , warm and is more likely to preclude restful sleep.

Next, ensure sleeping conditions are just right for you both. Our emotions are affected by the information absorbed through our senses so think about whether what you are seeing, hearing and feeling is conducive to sleep. Have the right amount of darkness; hello sleep mask, if one of you wants to read. Create an environment that tells your brain you’re officially in ‘rest mode’ rather ‘work mode’ - so make sure to remove laptops, work phones and mess.

Another very important piece of advice to avoid warring factions in the bedroom: resolve any arguments well before bedtime. Going to bed in a depressed or anxious state will sabotage sleep so try your best to resolve issues well before you turn down the lights.

If you can’t, at least compassionately agree to resolve stuff after a good night’s sleep, reassuring each other of your love and commitment. Besides, the brain problem-solves while you sleep, so you may do a better job of reaching a diplomatic solution the next day.