Everyone who shares a bed will face the issue of whether or not to sleep with their partner on nights when one of them has a cold or the flu. If one partner is sick, will the other come down with it because they share a bed? Can you get a good night's sleep when the person next to you is coughing, sneezing, or otherwise sick? If you are sick will you be more comfortable sleeping alone? The couples I interviewed for my book, Two in a Bed, offered reasons for sleeping together and also reasons to sleep apart when one of the partners has the flu or a cold. I'm not a physician and don't have medical advice to offer you, but I can tell you what the people I interviewed said.
I've Been Exposed Anyhow
Some people said sleeping apart would not prevent one partner from catching the other's cold or flu. The sick partner was contagious before the symptoms appeared, and so the partner who appears to be well is already coming down with the bug. The virus was transmitted through kissing, touching each other, touching surfaces the partners had touched, or breathing in air the partner had breathed out.
We Promised to Be Together in Sickness as Well as Health
Some people felt that they had made a commitment to each other to be together in sickness as well as health, and that meant sharing a bed when one of them had a bug. For them, staying in the same bed was an act of loyalty, caring, love, and commitment. It was a way to say, "I'm with you; you can count on me." And as part of that they were ready to do things to help their partner, even if it was to bring the partner a box of tissues or put a cool hand on the partner's hot forehead. And by staying in bed with their sick partner they were ready to act immediately if what seemed to be just an ordinary cold or case of the flu became something worse. Then they could call 9-1-1 or get their partner medicine to lower a spiking fever.
We Don't Have Anywhere Else to Sleep
Some people don't have a choice about where to sleep. Their couple bed is their only place to sleep...or at least their only decent place to sleep. They have no comfortable chair in which to sleep. There is no couch big enough for them to sleep in. If they have kids at home, trying to share a bed with a kid (or several kids) seems impossible, because the kid beds are cramped and the kids would probably be too restless to sleep with. And they can't sleep comfortably or at all on the floor.
We'll Both Sleep Better Apart
I also interviewed people who said both partners would sleep better if they slept apart when one of them had a cold or the flu. The partner who was sick wanted to sneeze and cough without self-consciousness, didn't want to try to suppress sneezing or coughing, and didn't want to feel guilty about her or his miserable sleep making things hard for the partner. The partner who for now didn't appear to be sick wanted as good a night's sleep as possible. And that meant sleeping apart from the partner who was coughing, sneezing, sniffling, and snoring (people with upper respiratory infections are more likely to snore and to snore loudly). And if the partner who is ill is awake and restless during the night, the other partner didn't want that restlessness to undermine her or his own sleep. Plus some people who are sick are angry and irritable about being sick and that makes them unpleasant to be near.
I Don't Want That Crud
Despite what some interviewees said about not being able to avoid getting infected by a partner's cold or the flu, some people said that they didn't want to catch what the partner had and tried to stay away from the partner as much as possible, and that meant sleeping apart. And many of them had partners who didn't want to make them sick and were glad they could and would sleep apart.
Sleeping Together Feels Right
Finally, there are some couples for whom being in bed together feels so right that they never want to give it up. For them there is much to lose from sleeping apart. Why sleep elsewhere and lose all the good things, the touching, the feelings of safety and togetherness, the satisfaction of the normal couple sleeping routine, the sexual contact, the sense of being a couple together, the conversation before falling asleep, and all the other good things that come with bed sharing?