The time you spend with your spouse right before you drift off to sleep is arguably the most important interaction you'll have all day. Below, relationship experts share seven bedtime mistakes couples often make -- and how to get back on track.
1. Going to bed at different times.
Sorry, night owl/early bird couples: Differing sleep schedules may seem like no big thing, but it's more harmful than you realize, said Marcia Naomi Berger, a psychotherapist and author of Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted.
"It's a recipe for feeling lonely and emotionally (and physically) detached from each other," she said. "One of the best things about being a couple is the warm, fuzzy time you share right before drifting off to sleep -- why why would anyone want to sacrifice that?"
If you're going to bed at separate times, there may be more to it than meets the eye, said Berger. "A conflict or grudge might exist that you need to talk about earlier in the day."
2. Being inconsiderate of your spouse's schedule.
If your late night TV or texting habits are getting in the way of your spouse's rest, it may be time to move the flatscreen or smartphone out of the bedroom, said Becky Whetstone, a marriage and family therapist based in Little Rock, Arkansas. Whetstone called on a real life example to illustrate her point.
"One husband I counseled was a physician and had to be at the hospital by 6 a.m. every week day. He pleaded with his wife, a stay-at-home mom, to not watch TV when he was trying to get a good night’s sleep but she wanted to keep it on all night as background noise," Whetstone recalled. "Despite every effort -- like suggesting she get headphones or he get earplugs and blinders for his eyes -- nothing brought him peace and she would not budge. A few years later, they divorced."
3. Saying nothing -- or very little -- to each other before bed.
After a long day of work and looking after the kids, who can blame you for wanting to jump into bed and call it a night? Still, it's worth trying to carve out some time to emotionally reconnect with your spouse.
"Take the time to talk about the highlights and low points of your day," said LiYana Silver, a San Francisco-based relationship coach. "There's no need to offer advice or therapy to each other -- just keep it to a short share."
4. Prioritizing screen time over quality time with your spouse.
Do yourself a favor and escort your smartphone out of the room before you head to bed. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and texts should always take a backseat to your spouse, but especially before bed, Berger said.
"Taking a tablet or phone to bed with you harms your relationship in two ways: First, it isolates you emotionally from each other," she said. "Secondly, when we're on electronic device shortly before sleep, the stimulation from the screen tends to keep you awake. With insufficient sleep, we’re likely to be less patient, kind and tolerant toward our partner the next day."
5. Self-grooming in bed.
Save the grooming regimen for the bathroom. As Whetstone has heard from clients, nothing kills romance quite like an errant toenail flicking you in the face.
"A wife I worked with was disgusted with her husband's tendency for grooming his nails in bed," Whetstone recalled. "She'd say, 'I hear a click or crack and every now and then a piece of toe or fingernail hits me in the face or flies across the room and bounces off the wall!' Even when the nails didn't hit her, she felt like he didn't care at all about what she thought of him."
6. Putting physical intimacy on the back burner.
Starting to feel more like roommates than spouses? If one of you is avoiding coming to bed or is seemingly disinterested in sex, talk through your issues before you hit the sheets, said Whetstone.
"When it comes to sex, quite a few clients have told me they suspect that their spouse won't come to bed at the same time they do because they want to avoid sex -- and quite a few don't deny that," she said. "I always say, 'Wouldn't it just be easier to talk about it rather than hide out in another room and tip toe to bed once you know they're in a deep sleep?'"
7. Going to bed angry.
You shouldn't abruptly end an argument just because it's late and you're both tired. But allowing unresolved conflicts or misunderstandings to fester time and time again isn't good for your marriage, either.
"There is a good reason for the saying, 'Don’t go to bed angry,'" said Berger. "Instead, do your best to clear up issues well before bed time, so when you’re ready to turn in for the night you’ll both want to communicate lovingly, in words, tone and actions."
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