By Alice O’Connell

Can sleeping in separate bedrooms improve your relationship (and love life)? My interview with Stuff highlights why a good night’s sleep benefits your partnership. #sleepingapart #couples

Alice writes, “In my younger years, back when I thought being busy was a badge of honour and success was something you only achieved if you blazed through the candle at both ends (I wish you could see the eye roll I’m giving my former self), I thought sleep was pretty irrelevant.

I vividly remember seeing a headline about how Hillary Clinton lives off just four hours sleep a night, along with a list of “successful” world leaders and CEOs who “didn’t need” more than 4-5 hours a night.

It seemed then, that if you wanted to get ahead in life, you needed to pretty much divorce yourself from being human, start acting more like a robot – and pretend that you loved living like that. Yay being an adult!

But thankfully, when I started looking at what affect my lifestyle was having on me (AKA when my body started screaming at me) I quickly saw sleep in a whole new light.

One of the books I read that turned out to be massively helpful was Thrive by Arianna Huffington. She’s raved about sleep in the last decade or so and to see a successful woman prioritising sleep and actually achieving more (both professionally and personally) as a result has been, well, liberating.

You can’t have it all – and not make sleep a key priority

Ariana Huffington writes in Thrive that her wake-up call to the importance of sleep was a painful one – she literally came-to with a broken cheekbone after fainting from sleep deprivation and exhaustion, hitting her head on her desk on the way down.

When she toured the world promoting the book, it was all anyone wanted to talk about – how do we get more sleep? How do we fall asleep? How do we stop being so tired all the time?

How poor sleep is affecting your health – but could separate bedrooms help?

One of the most interesting books I’ve read was Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker – the professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of California in Berkley. After 20 years of research he released this best-seller in 2017.

His advice for improving your physical and mental health substantially is simply to prioritise getting a good night’s sleep over everything else.

And it’s advice he listens to himself. Sometimes it means his social life suffers (he socialises between 10am and 6.30pm), meditates four times a week, goes to the gym daily, avoids caffeine after midday, and alcohol after 6pm.

If that sounds strict, there’s one more sleep rule he sticks to – separate bedrooms for him and his partner. Yes, a year into their relationship they negotiated a “sleep divorce” to reduce disturbance throughout the night – which, apparently isn’t all too uncommon.

Matthew says it’s something we don’t often talk about because there’s a stigma attached to it – that separate beds or bedrooms implies that you don’t have a good sex life. Yet, his studies showed that the opposite is true – that the quality of your physical relationship will actually improve, provided you have a bedroom goodnight routine (and morning cuddle!).

It’s advice that relationship expert Susan Winter wholeheartedly agrees with.

“Traditionally, we assumed that couples who slept apart were either having relationship issues or had lost the desire to be intimate,” she says.

“Research has shown us the value of a good night’s sleep. If you have a partner who tosses and turns at night, your sleep cycle is interrupted,” says Winter.

“Lack of sleep makes us overly emotional, prompting bickering and arguments, which aren’t particularly well known for being ideal ingredients in a healthy relationship.”


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