How to know if it’s time to “sleep divorce”

"In general, it is a very good thing for animals to sleep with their people," said Dr. Dana Varble, the chief veterinary officer for the North American Veterinary Community.<br /><br />"Do you really think there's enough room for you?" -- Delilah, a 10-year-old Siberian husky.<br />

The list of reasons why your bed partner might be keeping you up at night could be long and as boring as your mood when you pull yourself out of bed each morning.

There’s also an emotional toll, said sleep expert Wendy Troxel, senior behavioral scientist at RAND Corporation and author of “Sharing the Covers: Every Couple’s Guide to Better Sleep.”

“Sleep deprivation can affect key aspects of relationship functioning, such as your mood, your level of frustration, your tolerance, your empathy, and your ability to communicate with your partner and other important people in your life,” a said Troxel.

Poor sleep — and that resulting low mood — makes people “less able to engage in ‘perspective taking’ or contextualizing small adverse events,” said sleep specialist Rebecca Robbins, a teacher in the division of sleep medicine for Harvard Medical. School, who co-wrote the book “Sleep for Success!”

This tension can contribute to depression, anxiety and other emotional and relationship dysfunctions, Robbins said.

“Unfortunately, this (strain) sets off a negative feedback loop in which the next night’s sleep suffers,” Robbins said. “The process can quickly turn into concerning mental health symptoms.”

What is the answer? Kicking your sleeping partner to the curb, uh, a separate bed, is definitely an option.

“The question I always get is, ‘Is it bad if my partner and I sleep apart?’ The answer is no, not necessarily,” Troxel said. “It may even have significant benefits.”

Research carried out by Troxel and its team found that a well-rested person is “a better communicator, happier, more empathetic, more attractive and funnier” — all traits that are essential for developing and maintaining strong relationships, she said.

Sleeping apart can help couples be happier, less resentful and more able to enjoy their time together in bed, especially on weekends when work demands are lighter, Troxel said.

“I tell couples to try not to think of this as a sleeping divorce petition, but as a sleep covenant,” she added. “At the end of the day, there’s nothing healthier, happier, and even sexier than a good night’s sleep.”

Eliminate underlying sleep issues

Sleep partners are often the ones who point out signs of sleep disturbances and encourage their loved one to see a doctor or sleep specialist. Undiagnosed, sleep disturbances may well be detrimental to your future health and that of your partner.

That’s why experts say it’s best to see a sleep specialist to rule out and treat any underlying conditions before you leave your loved one’s bed – you just might be the key to identifying and treating a real sleep issue. health.

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Is it sleep apnea? If snoring is the main problem, it’s crucial that you find out if your partner has obstructive sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder in which people stop breathing for 10 or more seconds at a time.

“When the snoring is loud and loud, or interrupted by pauses in breathing, that’s when we start to worry,” Robbins said.

If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea puts you at high risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, and even premature death. according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Restless legs syndrome. If your partner’s legs twitch, twitch or kick, he or she may have periodic limb movement disorder or restless leg syndrome, also known as Willis-Ekbom disease. The condition can be treated with lifestyle changes and medication.

Think about drugs. Many common medications can cause insomnia or other types of sleep problems. Medicines for cholesterol and asthma, high blood pressure pills, steroids, and antidepressants are just a few of the prescriptions that can be the underlying cause of poor sleep.

Is it an untreated medical condition? Diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, cancer, and many other common conditions can also interrupt sleep with chronic pain or frequent trips to the bathroom.

Coping skills

Once any serious health issues are ruled out, couples who find sleeping in the same bed emotionally bonded may want to try some practical coping tips before making the decision to sleep apart, Troxel said. .

No alcohol please. If you suffer from insomnia, stop drinking well before bed, experts say. It may seem like it helps you sleep, but alcohol actually causes middle-of-the-night awakenings that can be hard to overcome.

Snorers should also eliminate alcohol, Troxel said, “because as everyone probably knows, if you sleep with a snorer and he drinks one drink too many, the snoring will be much worse that night.” This is because alcohol relaxes the throat muscles further, encouraging that loud snoring.

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This is where partners can be powerful and beneficial sources of what experts call “social control,” Troxel said.

“If you’re prone to drinking but know the consequences aren’t just going to affect your sleep, but your partner’s sleep as well, then maybe you’ll be more motivated to cut back a bit,” he said. she stated.

Raise your head. For snoring, try sleeping on extra pillows or using an adjustable bed — anything that raises your head to keep your throat open, Troxel said.

“For many people, the snoring tends to be worse when flying flat on their back, so raising their head a little can help,” she said.

If the underlying problem is congestion, try adding a humidifier to the room, she added. “Some people have had success with over-the-counter nasal strips to keep the airways open.”

Drown out the sound. Survival 101 for dealing with a snoring partner tries to muffle the noise, Troxel said. Try earplugs and run a fan or white noise machine.

Try sleep planning. A snorer who sleeps with a partner with insomnia may help that partner sleep more by going to bed later than their partner, Troxel said.

“For example, a snorer may delay bedtime by half an hour to an hour,” Troxel said. “This allows the partner to fall into a deeper sleep phase and possibly stay that way once the snorer goes to bed.”

Turn the buzzer. Sleeping on your back is the worst position for snoring because the soft tissues of the mouth and tongue collapse into the throat. When the sleeper unconsciously forces air through these soft tissues, snoring occurs.

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“If you can keep someone on their side, that can make the snoring less,” Robbins said. “I’ve heard of all kinds of creative techniques, like putting a bra on the snorer upside down and then putting tennis balls in the cups.”

Full-support body pillows may be an option, if they stay in place, said sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta, associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine.

“I’m a fan of the simple stuff, but if you want to buy something, we’ve come a long way from sewing tennis balls into the back of our pajamas,” Dasgupta said. “You can buy a strap-on on your back that has little foam-like things that are supposed to make you sleep on your side.

“And there are FDA-approved devices that attach to your throat or chest and provide vibrations designed to go off when you’re on your back, prompting side sleepers.”

Time for separate bedrooms?

You’ve tried everything, and good sleep is still a distant dream. At this point, there’s no reason not to do what’s best for each of you in order to get the quality sleep you need, especially since there are other ways to nurture a relationship than sharing a bed.

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“Couples can still make the bedroom a sacred space, even if they choose not to sleep together,” Troxel said. “You can develop rituals before bedtime and use that time to really connect with your partner instead of being alone on a phone or laptop or whatever.”

She encourages couples to spend quality time together before bed, share details of the day and send positive messages to each other.

“We know self-disclosure is good for relationships, it’s good for sleep,” Troxel said. “If you tell your partner you’re grateful, that’s a deep form of connection. Gratitude is good for relationships, it’s good for sleep.”

Nor does a “sleeping divorce” mean separate beds every night, Troxel said. It could just be the work week, with weekends spent in the same bed. It could be every other night – the options are as unique as each couple.

“There really is no A ‘one size fits all’ sleep strategy for every couple,” Troxel said. “It’s really about finding the strategy that will work best for both of you.”