"Sleeping Around" is a recurring blog post series where Dr. Winter, a sleep specialist, goes beyond the typical questions about healthy sleep and seeks out the most unique sleep circumstances to offer his assistance in how to tackle them. Even if your problems are not as extreme, hopefully the experience can help shed some light on your own sleep difficulties.
I get asked questions about sleep on a daily basis. How much sleep do we need? What's the best mattress for sleep? What can I do to fall asleep faster? When I dream I'm at the prom with my mother, what does that mean? So many great questions.
In all my years of working in the field of sleep, I have been asked every question related to things geared towards improving sleep, but recently I was asked a question I've never been asked before.
What bed partner qualities are best for one's sleep?
Now that is a serious question. It makes sense though. You will be spending about 3,000 hours next to this person in the first year alone. The question merits some careful consideration and after hours of contemplation and research, here is my checklist for finding the perfect bed partner.
-- Snoring: Provided you have good hearing, this is a quick problem to screen for within a potential bed partner. In the old days, you had to get firsthand data about your partner and the noises he or she produced. That meant you had to go opossum in bed pretending to be asleep until you were certain your partner was out cold. How does it sound? Peaceful ocean breeze or Deadliest Catch mayhem in the Bering Sea? With so many great apps available like the MotionX 24/7 that record noises at night, getting solid snore intel has never been easier. Those recorded noises can make any future break-ups easier. "It's not you... it's this [play recording]."
-- Sleep Timing: Careful with this one. Are you a night owl who does not even think about bed until you've watched the 2 a.m. broadcast of The Shawshank Redemption on basic cable and bought either a juicer or some form of loungewear on QVC? Me too! Watch out for a partner who likes to go to bed with the sun and wakes up to run at 4 a.m. with a headlight and irritating optimism. It's important to find someone who operates on a similar schedule. You don't want to be punching in as your partner is punching out.
-- Snuggle Synnergy: Are you a spooner, or do you subscribe to more of a Manifest Destiny mentality in the bed as you stake you claim to vast unclaimed areas of the mattress? You better make sure that your potential life partner shares your ideas about bedroom real estate. Test this out early. If you are a snuggler, assume a configuration in bed with your partner similar to what you would see with a tandem parachute jump. Are they comfortable or do you sense your mate is searching for a ripcord?
-- Temperature: This is one of the biggest complaints I hear from the athletes with whom I work. I like a cold bed, but my girlfriend likes it warm. This can be a sleep killer. Before you cast aside this partner, consider flannel pajamas for the heat seekers or sleeping in the buff for the cold blooded. If products like the ChiliPad or cooling sheets (Dermatherapy Sport) don't do the trick, you might be in trouble with this future bed buddy.
-- Mattress Firmness: Soft or firm. If there is complaining about your extra fluffy pillow top mattress the morning after your first overnight, no rose during the rose ceremony if you know what I mean.
-- Television: "I have to sleep with a television on." If your partner utters these eight words, and you like it dark and quiet, move on. They are wrong and you are right.
-- Cover Theft: This is the ultimate nocturnal low blow as you go to bed cocooned in a down comforter and wake up shivering in a fetal position trying to use your pillow to stay warm and whimpering, "Where am I? Do I still have both of my kidneys?" Feeling around finds a mountain of blankets and material wrapped around your partner. Multiple offenses in this category may mean this partner is not the one.
-- Sleepy Sex: Are you getting woken up in the night by a slightly-dazed-looking partner who wants to throw down at 3:45 a.m., and then has little recollection of the 45-minute tantric exploration the following morning? If your partner routinely seems to be engaging you while in a trance-like dream state, you can forgive some occasional cover theft.
-- Bed time fashion: Cute pajama set or oversized college sweat shirt and scrub pants stolen from a hospital? Not a biggie, but then again there is a reason why one wears a suit to a job interview.
-- Frequent insomnia: Having trouble falling asleep is a real drag. Having no trouble sleeping, but being awakened with by a whispered, "Are you asleep? I'm not," is a reason for justifiable homicide in six states.
Twenty years ago today, I found a partner who checked all 10 of these boxes, and I married her. Even though my sleep in bed does not check as many boxes as it used to, her sleep is as perfect today as the day I met her. I hope this checklist helps you find a perfect bed partner. While I'm sure that great ones are still out there, the best one in the world is still taken.
Happy 20th Anniversary Ames. I love you. Please don't steal my blanket tonight.