From 1951 to 1957, real-life spouses Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz portrayed a married couple on TV’s “I Love Lucy” -- a married couple who slept in separate twin beds.
My, how things have changed.
Today, of course, the image of a couple sharing a bed is an acceptable one in pop culture. But at the same time, plenty of mystery still surrounds the politics of bed-fellowship, and sharing covers with the same person who shares our hearts can lead to a lot of … competing claims. We partnered with Sleep Number to bust (or confirm) seven common couple’s-sleep myths that may be keeping you and your partner awake at night.
MYTH #1: Men Snore More Than Woman
Don’t be so quick to deny your noisy nighttime habits. While men do have a tendency to snore more than women, that’s only until women reach menopause, says Michael Breus, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Once that happens, all bets are off.
MYTH #2: Sex Is Good For Sleep
A healthy sex life is generally good for sleep and can be soothing, says Paul Rosenblatt, author of Two in a Bed: The Social System of Couple Bed Sharing. But whether sex leads to good sleep or not depends on if the sex itself was good. Sex that is disappointing or raises unpleasant issues or is frustrating (think: one partner reaches the “big o,” and the other doesn’t) could cause anxiety and delay sleep significantly, Rosenblatt explains.
MYTH #3: Women Like To Cuddle More Than Men
There’s no hard data on cuddling, but Wendy Troxel, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and certified behavioral sleep medicine specialist, has seen that men and women alike embrace the power of a good cuddle. “The idea that only women derive benefits from sleeping with a partner -- the sense that only women need [to feel] safety and security at nighttime -- isn’t backed by research at all,” Troxel says. “Data shows that both men and women benefit from having a partner and sleeping together.”
Rosenblatt has found one thing women like to do more before bed: talk to their bed mate. Men would rather have sex or just go straight to sleep, he says.
MYTH #4: You Should Never Go To Bed Angry
A 2011 study found that anger was not associated with sleep performance among couples, but conflict was,” Troxel says. “Sometimes, we have feelings and we just can’t shut them down. But we can control the timing of our conflicts.” In other words, according to Troxel, being angry at your partner might not mess with your sleep -- but confronting your other half about the bigger issue will.
The time it takes to talk through and settle a problem, can postpone -- and thus shorten -- sleep. But letting something that’s bothering you fester can keep you awake, too, says Janet Kennedy, a licensed clinical psychologist and founder of NYC Sleep Doctor. Stewing over something can raise your adrenaline enough to keep you from sleeping, Kennedy says.
Here’s what we’ve gathered from this seemingly … conflicting advice: If you’re mad that your significant other never does the dishes properly, don’t bring it up before bedtime if you can help it. But if it’s a bigger problem and your sleep is being disrupted anyway, deal with it as you see fit.
MYTH #5: Night Owls And Early Birds Can’t Possibly Achieve Bedtime Bliss
Asking couples to go to sleep at the same time and have the same sleep schedule is unrealistic and not conducive to good sleep, Kennedy says, especially because our sleep schedules are largely determined by our jobs. Plus, that expectation creates a lot of frustration.
“A couple shouldn’t have to go to sleep at the same time to be happy,” Kennedy says. “If one person is trying to go to bed earlier than is natural for them, it can create frustration, whereas if a person just accepts that their sleeping schedule is different from their [partner’s], they could engage in some kind of bedtime routine together, then do something else, like read, until his or her bedtime.”
MYTH #6: People With Insomnia Must Be Unhappy In Their Relationships
The causes of sleep disorders run the gamut. It would be inappropriate to assume something about a relationship based on a sleeping issue, Kennedy explains.
While studies have shown that women who are unhappy in their marriage are more likely to have insomnia, and, clinically, marital conflict is a key driver in the development of insomnia, Troxel says we have to be careful with labeling this as a cause-and-effect issue.
“People with insomnia have a host of medical, or greater interpersonal difficulties,” Troxel says.
MYTH #7: Happy Couples Cuddle In Bed (Or, At Least, They Fall Asleep Touching)
There are couples who sleep entangled all night, but they’re more likely to be relatively new couples, Rosenblatt says. Different body sizes, incompatible body temperatures and sleep disorders are all reasons why bed sharers may choose to stick to opposite sides of the bed -- and that choice is not necessarily an indicator of happiness (or a lack of). While most individuals do have certain “touching” needs, you don’t need to be in a bed to have those met; you could snuggle while watching TV, hug often, or find many different ways to be in contact with your partner.
Having separate beds, a la Lucy and Desi, isn’t indicative of conflict in a relationship, either, Breus says. There are many reasons for couples to choose separate beds, but keeping intimacy in a relationship is of utmost importance. “One thing I do see a lot with couples is they have different mattress preferences,” Breus says. “That doesn’t mean they need separate beds.”
Sleep Number® is committed to helping couples get their best possible sleep. Sleep Number® beds adjust on each side to your ideal level of firmness, comfort and support -- your Sleep Number® setting. Add our DualTemp™ layer to heat or cool each side of the bed, and you can both sleep exactly the way you like.