Sleep is important; we’ve made this point abundantly clear throughout our blog, but what if there’s an additional factor that can contribute to better or worse sleep? When people enter a romantic relationship in America, many will begin sharing their space of sleep more and more and subsequently spend little to no time sleeping alone. How does this seemingly natural progression of couple sleeping impact our sleep?
As with everything, the answer to this question is not black or white. There is a myriad of variables that will either help improve sleep quality or reduce it. We need to understand factors that can impact sleep because it will help us harness the environmental conditions that promote sleep while also diminishing those that may impact sleep.
Elements of Sharing a Bed that Decrease Sleep Quality
Before diving into what the research says about couple sleeping, I will caveat that sleeping arrangements differ across cultures. While sleeping with a partner is the norm in America, there are many areas of the world where couples have their own bedrooms. Sleeping arrangements are also based on preference; not everyone wants to share a bed or even a bedroom with their partner. While I was growing up, I remember my grandparents had separate bedrooms! Keep this in mind as you read through the research because preference trumps research.
Research has found couple sleeping can reduce sleep quality due primarily to disturbances such as snoring, restlessness, sleep talking, and stealing the blankets. Americans who sleep with partners wake up, on average, 1.23 times per night, while those who sleep alone wake up approximately 1.15 times per night (based on sleep behaviors of 30 Americans). It makes sense that people who sleep with their partner would wake up more because there is more chance for sleep disturbance based on movement or sound. As an interesting aside, people whose pets sleep with them wake up approximately 1.98 times per night. Basically, pets cause the most sleep disturbance of all three conditions. Cat owners would undoubtedly agree with this stat! I know my cats like to run around the house at 4:00 am and wake me up at 6:00 am on the dot for their breakfast.
Snoring and restlessness are sleep habits and cause the most disruption to partners. Across two studies, females report decreases in sleep quality when their partner snores (Blumen et al., 2009; Arber et al., 2007). Approximately 47% of Americans snore, but luckily there are simple remedies to help combat this. For example, my husband snores when he sleeps on his back, but sleeping on his side is a simple solution to this [irritating] problem.
While the prevalence of snoring is high, restlessness during sleep is even higher at 67%. Having a partner who is restless throughout the night can disrupt sleep. Unfortunately, restlessness can be caused by just about anything such as poor mattress quality, uncomfortable sleep environment, stress, pain, illnesses, jet lag, stimulant use, etc.
Elements of Sharing a Bed that Increase Sleep Quality
Based on the information presented above, you may be starting to second guess spending your nights sharing a sleep space. Fear not, there is plenty of literature to support co-sleeping with a partner as well.
Hofer and Chen (2020) found that sleeping with a partner’s scent improved sleep quality, suggesting scent is a factor for positive sleep. Also demonstrating the benefits of couple sleeping, Troxel et al. (2009) found women who reported higher levels of marital satisfaction also reported fewer issues with sleep. However, this association was more evident for Caucasian women compared to African American women. Research has found that couples who sleep together have increased REM sleep. The REM stage is the ideal stage of sleep as it helps with memory storage, emotional regulation, and problem-solving.
Remember, couple sleeping, and also, there are other factors that influence sleep than just having a human in the same bed. The research on co-sleeping should not dictate your life. Your partner could be the quietest and most still human on the planet, and your sleep quality may still be impacted due to feeling cramped or overheating. 63% of women and 57% of men report that bed size matters in their reports of comfort when sleeping with a partner. Couples who share a twin-size bed versus a King size bed are certainly going to have different experiences.
Couple Sleeping: Yay or Nay?
From the research presented, it appears that disruptive behaviors (i.e., snoring, restlessness) are the factors that contribute to reduced sleep quality in couples sharing a bed. Overall, there appear to be more benefits associated with bed-sharing amongst couples than consequences. However, if you are someone who lives with a spouse who is a restless sleeper, then there is a possible solution: weighted blankets. Research has demonstrated that weighted blanket use at night can reduce restlessness and promote deeper sleep. While weighted blankets won’t help with snoring, they can further promote higher quality sleep amongst both partners. Moreover, Truhugs specifically designed the duo for couples, meaning it’s big enough to fit both people without feeling too smothered. The blanket fits perfectly on up to a King-size bed.
We’d love to hear your thoughts about couple sleeping! What are your preferences and if you do sleep with a more…disruptive partner, how do you manage quality sleep? Let us know in the comments!