Signs you and your spouse need a 'sleep divorce'

Your partner is your soulmate and you love each other like no other couple you know. You like the same things, are in synch with each other over just about everything... everything that is, except sleeping patterns. One of you is a night owl and keeps the lights on, the other likes going to bed early. One snores and steals the covers, the other is a light sleeper. If that's the case, sleep experts say it may be time to consider a "sleep divorce."

It's not as bad as it sounds. Jennifer Adams, who wrote a book about sleep divorces and who also sleeps in a separate room from her husband of 15 years says (via Good Housekeeping), "As a couple, if you enjoy sleeping together and can do so without one party disrupting the other's sleep, then that is a great outcome. However, it doesn't mean that your relationship is better than a couple who sleeps separately. Hundreds of thousands of couples are heading to separate rooms each night and enjoying a full life, and great relationships, because they get a good night's sleep each night."

Sleep quality is critical to a healthy relationship

Millions of couples around the world sleep together in the same bed, and while this tends to deepen feelings of intimacy, researchers say not enough consideration has been put into how sleeping together might actually affect the relationship as a whole. By the time two people become a couple, they have already established their own sleeping habits, and that researchers say conflicts tend to come when these habits aren't in synch (via Chronobiology International).

Research from UC Berkeley also points to the fact that sleepless nights can worsen conflict within a relationship; psychologists Amie Gordon and Serena Chen say romantic partners tend to lash out more after a bad night's sleep (via Berkeley News). Gordon, a doctoral student and the lead author of the study on sleep and romantic relationships, says, "Couples who fight more are less happy and less healthy. Our research helps illuminate one factor that leads couples to engage in unnecessary and harmful conflict by showing that couples experience more frequent and severe conflicts after sleepless nights." 

Chen, who is a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley says, "Even among relatively good sleepers, a poor night of sleep was associated with more conflict with their romantic partner the next day." 

There is no shame in a sleep divorce

Don't feel bad if you and your partner both think it might be time to throw in the towel when it comes to the idea of sleeping together, particularly if sleeping apart ends up improving the quality of your relationship. 

"As soon as you are getting the sleep you need, I can almost guarantee the relationship will flourish because you won't be sleep deprived. Feelings of resentment that build from lying awake each or most nights are destructive for a relationship and dealing with those feelings of resentment when sleep-deprived is not recommended," Jennifer Adams says.