If you’re married, chances are you’ve encountered some challenges when it comes to sleeping together – and I don’t mean that kind of “sleeping together.” I mean getting some actual shut-eye.
Who can sleep through loud snoring, after all?
Or perhaps you’re married to someone who can’t stay still – there’s tossing, turning, and even “stealing” the blanket.
What about those couples who have mismatched sleep patterns or preferences – the night-owl who marries the early-bird? The spouse who wants a cool room with the one who prefers it warm?
Some husbands and wives even have their kids join them in bed – sometimes it’s a fussy baby or a squirmy “foot-in-your-face” toddler.
Add how smartphones hurt sleep to this chaos, and it’s no wonder on the whole we’re so tired and cranky. The issue is so bad the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls “insufficient sleep” a “public health problem.”
With all of these challenges, can someone remind me why most married couples sleep in the same bed again?
Well, turns out that, despite the challenges, sharing a bed is good for your health.
Studies that compared how well couples and singles slept found that couples get some real health benefits from sleeping in the same bed. The Wall St. Journal reported that “sleeping with a partner may be a major reason why people with close relationships tend to be in better health and live longer.” Sleeping together might also lessen the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and increase the levels of oxytocin, the “bonding” hormone.
Not only that, but sharing a bed – and the special time of emotional and physical intimacy that goes with it – helps keep couples united, says Greg Smalley, vice president of Marriage and Family Formation here at Focus on the Family.
So how can husbands and wives sleep together more successfully?
Greg has five pieces of advice:
1. Realize sleep is important
Sleep is important for your health – and your marriage. More sleep can positively impact relationship satisfaction. Conversely, a lack of sleep creates two exhausted spouses who are more vulnerable to being irritated by the other. This creates an increased likelihood of conflict between the couple. Plus, when you’re tired, the way you perceived your spouse tends to be more negative.
So listen to your spouse when he or she brings up concerns related to sleep. Talk through possible solutions. Work through relationship problems before going into the bedroom.
2. Make your bedroom a “sanctuary”
One way to make your bedroom a refuge is to keep the outside world… out.
Practically speaking, that means no smartphones, no TVs, and no fighting. All of these things can become distractions that keep couples from connecting with each other and sleeping well.
3. Keep children out of the marriage bed
The temptation to allow babies into the bed can be great, because parents can be desperate for rest during their early years. But once that habit is formed, it can be a challenge to curtail it. But the reality is children can present a real obstacle to husbands and wives needed to connect with each other (and co-sleeping isn’t the safest sleep environment for babies).
That’s why Greg advises parents to set a boundary and keep the bed solely for the couple. Teach older children that Mom and Dad need time alone to connect and keep their marriage strong.
4. Take care of any medical issues
Some sleep issues are symptomatic of underlying health problems. For example, undiagnosed diabetes might cause a frequent need to urinate. Depression and anxiety might cause insomnia or difficulty sleeping. Sleep apnea might cause loud snoring and abrupt awakenings from sleep – and cause insomnia in your spouse. One in ten American adults suffer from restless leg syndrome, a sleep-related movement that creates an irresistible urge to move the legs.
Taking care of the factors that are robbing you of sleep will not only help your health – it might also improve your marriage.
5. Make intimacy a priority
Don’t underestimate the value of “pillow talk” in a marriage. Commit to spending ten minutes talking together and cuddling.
But instead of “administrating” your marriage during this time (talking about budget, schedule, kids, etc.), play the “high/low” game, where each spouse shares the best (high) part of your day and what was the worst (low) part of your day. Couples can also use this time to express gratitude for each other – share something that your spouse did that day that you appreciated. Show affection with each other, and have sex.
Bedtime is also the perfect time to pray together.
And while Greg strongly feels the ideal is for couples to sleep together, we know there are some husbands and wives who feel they absolutely can’t sleep together because of special situations or sleep incompatibilities.
To those couples, Greg advises that they still go to bed together and engage in the emotional and physical intimacy that will benefit their relationship. After the couple connects, one spouse – the night owl, for example – can get up after the other falls asleep and eventually sleep in another room.
I hope this practical advice helps your marriage thrive. I’m curious to hear from you – have you and your spouse faced sleep-time challenges? If so, how have you worked through them? What benefits have you found from sleeping together? Let me know in the comments section, below.