Some people need to read before sleeping, or find that reading before going to sleep is very satisfying. For some it is a lot easier to fall asleep if they read for a while. And it's easier for many reasons to read in bed just before falling asleep rather than to be reading somewhere else in the house. In some couples I interviewed for my Two in a Bed book, both partners often read in their shared bed before going to sleep. But it was more common for only one partner to read in bed before falling asleep, and in that there could be problems.
The Light, the Sounds, Your Moving Bother Me
Some people fell asleep without any trouble if their partner was reading in bed. But there were other people who found it hard to fall asleep because their partner was reading in bed. Some were bothered by the light from a reading lamp or even by the light of a computer screen. They needed darkness, or nearly complete darkness to fall asleep. Some were bothered by the sounds of pages turning, if their partner was reading a book or magazine. Some were bothered by the movements their reading partner made. It turns out that even someone trying to lie perfectly still will move fingers, hands, arms, and maybe even their whole body at times as they read, and for some sleep partners those movements make it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep.
I Really Want to Read
Some people need to read before falling asleep. What they are reading or want to read is very interesting to them. For some the time before falling asleep is the best time or the only time to do much reading. Some people need to read before they can fall asleep in order to clear their minds of things that would make it hard for them to fall asleep. For some, reading is relaxing, and the relaxation they get from reading makes it much easier to fall asleep. Some read as part of their job, and they need to do that late night reading in order to be prepared for the next day's work. And some readers in bed need that reading time to warm up and have the bed warm up before they can fall asleep
What to Do?
If a couple has strong disagreement about reading in bed because one has a lot of trouble sleeping because the other is reading and the reader really needs or wants to read, what can they do? Among the couples I interviewed, there were people who learned to sleep with the light on and the partner reading. Some readers of books or magazines found reading lamps that focused the light more narrowly, so there was less light coming into the facial area of their partner. A bigger bed was of help to a few, with even a few inches or a foot of greater separation making the light, sounds, and movements of the reader less of a problem for the other partner. In a few couples the partner of a reader made changes in how he or she slept, for example, wearing a sleeping mask over the eyes or covering ears and maybe eyes with pillows. One couple had two bedrooms. The reader might start out most nights in bed with her partner, so they could cuddle and talk. But then the reader would get up and go to the other bedroom and read as long as she felt like it, and that is where she would eventually asleep. Some couples agreed to a ration of reading for the reader--for example, two pages or a chapter after they were both in bed and the non-reading partner was ready to sleep. And finally, some readers gave up reading in bed, and read somewhere else in the house until they were ready to go to bed.
This blog focuses on issues about light, sound, and bed movement, but I know that some non-readers resented the reading because they were not getting the attention and possibly the touching and cuddling they would if their partner was not reading. Possibly some partners who read are fine with not giving their partners so much attention and cuddling. But among obvious compromises is for the reading partner to give the other partner their attention and cuddling at some point every night, maybe after reading or maybe before reading, but at least for a while saying in actions and maybe words to the non-reading partner some version of, "You are important to me. I love you. I like being with you."