Marriage Monday – Let’s Talk about Sleep

Do you and your partner sleep well together? This subject is on my mind, I think, since S and I have returned from the Thanksgiving holiday a little less rested than we would have been if we had stayed home. This time around our lack of rest is mostly due to extensive road travel and our toddler, who cut her last four teeth all at once, beginning the day after we hit the road. Some of my tiredness, however, stems from the fact that S is a very active sleeper and as often as not I become a prop he uses to act out his dreams. He remains sound asleep while gesturing wildly, sitting up, talking, playing the piano and what have you. For a couple of grinding weeks right after I brought E home from the hospital, he had dreams that I had brought her into bed with us and was about to drop her.  During these dreams he would clutch me (and the presumed baby) wildly, desperate to keep her from falling. Not once during these episodes did I have E in bed with us, and since I was already on edge from the sleep deprivation that comes with a frequently nursing baby, I kicked him to the spare room for the entirety of my maternity leave.

The truth of the matter is, we just don’t sleep particularly well together. I am a light sleeper – S is a heavy sleeper. S is also 6 feet, 6 inches tall and since we have yet to spring for a king-sized bed, he is often squished and uncomfortable which, in turn, makes me squished and uncomfortable.  S is also much more of a night owl and prefers sleeping in, where I am always in bed by ten o’clock but more than ready to get up early.

When we sleep well together, we sleep very very well – we can go weeks or even months sleeping side by side, and when our sleep patterns coalesce in this way there is nothing I like better – I do believe a sense of physicial and emotional intimacy is lost when we sleep in separate bedrooms, and some of our loudest and longest laughing sessions have occured at three in the morning. But when we don’t sleep well together, we sleep terribly, and someone ends up in the guest room for a few days or a week until we can reset ourselves enough to share bed space again.

Most of my friends act appalled if I even hint at sleeping separately from S – and so I often don’t mention it because it seems to come across as though our marriage is in trouble, when the truth of the matter is our marriage is at its most perilous when I haven’t slept for three nights because S has decided to form a band in his sleep and play Green Day’s greatest hits. I seethe while S., E and and even our dog sleep until I recognize the pure ridiculousness of the situation and march myself off to the spare room.

So, that’s our sleep status – we try to mostly sleep together and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. What about you? Do you think sleeping apart is just one step away from divorce town? Have you slept apart for years, and have the happiest marriage you know? Any tips on how to cope with different sleeping “styles?”

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10 Responses to Marriage Monday – Let’s Talk about Sleep

  1. Amy says:

    I think that sleeping together is the most intimate part of my relationship. When we sleep we are each at our most vulnerable and I feel it is an honor to be the only one who experiences that part of my husband. I love bed time!

  2. trophos says:

    I still sleep in my office (it’s a cozy in-house office) several times a week. Like you guys, we have very different schedules (I’m the night owl), and he’s a light sleeper. But he frequently wakes me up in the morning when he’s getting up, so if I want to sleep in, I might stay upstairs. Or for a variety of reasons, none of which has ever been “we’re pissed and don’t want to share a bed.”

    And yes, I think people do assume this is ominous, but I really don’t. It’s what works for us. Our lines of communication are open, which is what I think matters, finally. Every marriage is a secret place :)

  3. Jen says:

    My husband and I are two very different kinds of sleepers and always have been. He likes to fall asleep with the TV on, and I can’t stand to have a light on or any sound. When we first were married, we somehow made it work despite the differences. But over the years, we haven’t consistently slept in the same bed. I’m really torn about it. On the one hand, I think we’re missing out on something by sleeping apart. On the other hand, I think it keeps us sane to sleep separately. I agree with trophos above – every marriage is a secret place and there are no two experiences that are the same.

  4. Rebecca H. says:

    One word: snoring. If we had a big enough house I’d sleep in different rooms, and I don’t think that’s a problem. As it is, I just try to fall asleep first or rely on strategic kicking to keep things quiet :)

  5. musingsfromthesofa says:

    I think heading off to the spare room is the most sensible thing to do, rather than to lie there seething. I’m a light sleeper and easily disturbed, but as I also love my sleep and don’t function well tired, I have slept in a sleeping bag on my own sofa rather than stay in bed with someone snoring!
    But there has to be a balance, because I agree with you about the physical and emotional intimacy. The barriers are down, somehow, so it’s a good place to talk.

  6. Emily Barton says:

    Bob hates, hates, hates it when we sleep apart. But we both sleep better when we do. If I’m having trouble sleeping, I almost always take myself off to the guest room, so I can read without bothering him, and so I don’t find myself smacking him when I’m finally drifting off to sleep, and he begins to snore or something. When I’m home alone, though, for some reason, I often find it very difficult to sleep without him.

  7. katy says:

    I, too, am a light sleeper and my husband is somnambulant. Add to this equation two persnickety sleeper children and we have a household where my husband is often the *only* person who’s had any sleep. Our solution has been to have him sleep with our older son and I sleep alone, bringing our baby into the room when he needs to nurse and then putting him back again when he’s back asleep. Right now, it’s the only arrangement that lets us function.

    But I do miss the intimacy of sharing sleep with him. I miss our conversations as we fall asleep. I miss waking up to him there. I miss spooning.

    Mostly, I miss feeling rested. I had no idea it was possible for TWO terrible sleepers to emerge from my womb. TWO! We are just mainly waiting for our youngest to be night weaned so the children can share a room and (hopefully) comfort one another when they wake up so Corey and I can return to sharing a sleeping space!

  8. Courtney says:

    Amy, oh, honestly. Your love for bedtime knows no bounds! I still remember you going to bed early and being able to sleep through raging parties in college. Your response is super sweet, though.

    Trophos – first of all, welcome! I love reading your blog, it’s a delight to have you here! Secondly, yes – I think one of our biggest issues is S. is such a heavy sleeper and I am such a light one – it doesn’t make for easy rest at all. Biorhythms are something every couple should discuss before moving in together!

    Jen – oh, I couldn’t fall asleep with the tv on either! We actually don’t even have one in our bedroom – we used to but then decided not to in the house because of all of the advice we read against it – I don’t miss it except for in the morning – I like morning news while I’m getting ready for the day.

  9. I feel ya. I am not above hauling ass to the couch if need be, though it doesn’t happen often. I am amused that folks find this troubling, as I’m much more of a horror when I’m sleep-deprived. I’m really doing everyone involved a favor. :)

  10. Courtney says:

    Rebecca – YES! The snoring! Oh god, the snoring! What is up with that? If I wake up and S. is sawing logs, it’s all she wrote as far as me getting any sleep in our room…

    Becky – exactly. Sleeping together is definitely preferable, but not always achievable!

    Emily – oh, I agree. I can sleep beautifully a room away from Sam but if he is out of town the quality of my sleep goes way, way down!

    Katy – Two babies who struggle with sleep has to be horrifically exhausting. I know you have tried *everything* that syncs up with your parenting style so all I can imagine is that this too shall pass! Lately E has started talking in her sleep and more than once I have almost woken her up by going into her room, answering her cries of “mama, mama” only to find her sound asleep on her belly dreaming! Now i give it a ten count before going into her room!

    Andi – Yes. When i am sleep deprived I am a wreck – I am a better wife, mom, employee and general all around person when I am rested!

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