Trouble in the Bedroom… With Sleep?

Upset couple with marital problems in bed

Trouble in the bedroom doesn’t always have to do with sex. Conflicts and incompatibilities related to sleep and your bedmate can have very serious consequences. Snoring, tossing and turning, conflicting circadian rhythms (early birds versus night owls), noise sensitivity, or even temperature preferences can create havoc in the bedroom and out.

In fact, incompatible sleep schedules have even been associated with relationship difficulties and higher rates of divorce. Research has suggested that love and ethnicity both play a role in sleep complaints. A study looking at level of marital happiness among women found that high levels of marital happiness was associated with significantly less sleep complaints including early morning awakenings, difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, non-restful sleep.

These four tips can help you strike back at sleep-related problems with your partner:

Identify the Problem
Spend some time as a couple working on the task of defining in more detail exactly what is causing problems and why. Sleep problems with your partner like incompatible sleep schedules or preferences are typically not problematic in and of themselves; it’s the specific negative consequences resulting from incompatibilities that actually impact relationships. For example, problems can include sleep deprivation/inadequate hours of sleep, difficulty communicating due to emotional readiness and openness during different times of the day, needs for physical affection and intimacy during different times of the day, etc. Understanding exactly how and why different sleep schedules and preferences are manifesting in problems and conflicts is key to finding appropriate solutions.

Team Up
Once problems and issues are identified, team up with your partner to begin brainstorming possible solutions, rather than adopting an adversarial stance working against each other and fighting to be right or convince your partner of specific compromises or agreements Remember that most sleep-related incompatibilities and preferences tend to be out a of person’s control, rather than deliberate choices. Separating and identifying the problems and teaming up together to brainstorm possible solutions can reconnect a couple and help bolster their ability to find solutions that help, as well as increasing each partner’s openness to compromise.

Take an Experimental Stance
When brainstorming possible solutions and compromises, try to approach each idea and negotiation as an experiment or trial for a defined about of time, especially those that are difficult and challenging. Willingness to try something and see out it works out communicates respect and consideration for your partner’s needs, and often times results can be very different than expectations so, even if you are convinced you are going to hate a particular compromise, think about agreeing to give it try for a while and see how it actually plays out. You can always revisit and adjust the strategy to something that is more in line with your needs.

Sleep Apart
In more extreme cases, couples elect to sleep apart regularly or occasionally because of incompatibilities in sleep preferences such as schedule, temperature or other issues such as snoring or excessive movement during sleep by one partner. The resultant sleep deprivation can cause devastating physical and emotional fallout. Electing to sleep apart can often minimize or eliminate these kinds of problems and save or enhance a relationship. Avoid stigmatizing this solution if it’s something that you might need to do. Remember, it’s something that can be done occasionally, but regularly to help each partner catch up on sleep.