Sharing a bed with your partner is a tradition that has been upheld by couples for centuries, and one many people believe is a big part of marriage. But, nowadays, more and more are choosing to sleep in separate rooms, for a variety of reasons.
David Burke, 48, and wife Claire, 54, of the United Kingdom are making headlines this week after it was revealed the couple, who have lived in separate homes for their entire 20-year relationship, have finally moved in together. But they still refuse to share the same bed.
The unconventional pair appeared on the UK’s This Morning show on Wednesday to talk about their new living arrangements, explaining that the decision to move in together came after finding it difficult to pick the right school for their 12-year-old son Jay, who has Down syndrome.
However, it’s not something the couple decided on lightly, and it’s taken a bit of adjusting. “We still manage to keep a little bit of space, a little bit of independence,” David told hosts Phillip Schofield and Rochelle Humes. “So it’s not been that big of an adjustment, really, not as much as we thought.”
As to whether they’ll gradually move into the same room, David responded by saying, “Some things are not worth sacrificing – and a good night’s sleep is one of them!”
Claire added that they’ve tried sharing a bed once before, but it didn’t go down so well. “People expect you to do that and we had one night,” she revealed. “I was snoring, he was snoring, he was star fishing, so it [sleeping in separate rooms] just developed — we never spoke about it.”
David and Claire aren’t the only ones putting their sleeping needs first. Celebrities including Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas have previously spoken about keeping some physical distance in their relationship, with separate bathrooms and areas in the house.
Relationships Australia CEO Elisabeth Shaw previously told Starts at 60 that it’s a lot more common to sleep separately than people think. She explained the reason was most often a health concern, or one person being a restless sleeper. Other possible reasons include snoring, sleep apnea, different schedules, a young child sleeping in the bed, or simply one person in the relationship needing more sleep.
“It can happen ad hoc (giving it less meaning and less impact) or more permanently, say in the case of sleep apnea or snoring,” she said.
According to a 2015 survey by the US-based National Sleep Foundation, an estimated one in four couples sleep in separate bedrooms or beds, The Australian has reported previously.
A previous study by EurekAlert found disrupted sleep can trigger health problems, and also have a negative effect on relationships. Ensuring each of you has a good night’s sleep reduces the chance of being tired and grumpy and thus arguments being sparked the next day. Lead investigator and psychologist Amie Gordon said, “Poor sleep may make us more selfish as we prioritise our own needs over our partner’s.”
In fact, regularly sleeping apart can make you more than just nicer to your partner. Shaw has met several couples who choose to sleep separately, and when they do invite their other half to join them in bed, it can reignite a lot of excitement in their relationship, leading to greater intimacy.
“Some couples who have always slept separately – because of restlessness for example – have told me that they find the need to invite the other into bed playful and erotic. It makes intimacy at bedtime a deliberate invitation rather than something that can become quite domestic and not very exciting,” she explained.
On the flip side, clinical psychologist Michael J Breus believes sleeping apart can have a negative affect on many relationships. Writing for Psychology Today, he urged couples to attempt to address their sleep problems with other methods first.
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