How a sleep divorce could save your marriage
London - Ten minutes past midnight and I’m lying in bed gritting my teeth. I bark my husband’s name and he wakes in fright. Sheepishly I explain he was snoring - Snore. Snort. Pause. Snuffle. Pause. "You didn’t have to shout!" he says furiously.
And it seems I’m not the only one who blames their sleep deprivation on their beloved. The 2018 Sleep Wellness Survey found a third of us never get the sleep we need, with a quarter of us blaming the problem on our partner.
So fractious are the midlife marital bed wars that one in four of us is now filing for a "sleep divorce" and heading off to separate beds at night.
A survey last year for the bedding store Bensons for Beds found that the main culprits driving couples to sleep apart are snoring, arguments, letting children infiltrate the marital bed, coming home "worse for wear" and crashing out on the sofa. I could add to that wriggling, kicking, fiddling with tech in the dead of night and general poor bed-iquette.
My husband is among the surprising number of people who favour falling asleep spooning or snuggling and presumably enjoy numb arms and someone breathing hotly in their face. I suspect there is always one partner who, the second their beloved conks out, squirms from their clutches with an exhausted sigh of relief.
I need a clear yard of space around me before unconsciousness can take hold. (I’m not a monster. I’m loving and giving in daylight hours. Honest.)
When we first got together, I owned a queen-size bed. Shortly after Phil joined me in it, I developed insomnia. Even as I gazed owl-eyed at the ceiling, it dawned on me that the main reason I remained bolt awake was snoring gently beside me, inches from my ear.
Several years into our marital cold war, I hit upon the genius realisation that we were free to purchase individual duvets while still sharing a bed. So now Phil chills under a duvet-lite, yet still hankers after something called "fresh air".
There is a sense that sleeping apart is fundamentally unhealthy for the relationship. (In fact the 2017 Bensons for Beds survey found 31 percent of couples who slept apart lied to friends about it because they felt ashamed. Incidentally, 28 percent said their sex life had suffered.)
Is it a myth that happy couples sleep together? Certainly, one sleep expert I consulted believed the sweet peace of sleeping apart, if mutually agreed, was a pragmatic solution that didn’t reflect the state of the relationship - indeed, it could improve it.
However, marital therapist and author Andrew G. Marshall has reservations. Bluntly, he suspects that one reason couples may sleep apart is because "they can’t stand the sight of each other".
It’s complex, he says. "What actually binds people together is not just having sex, it’s the general connectedness that comes of a late-night or early morning cuddle. The bedroom is one of the few places couples have private space together to chat over stuff and have a private conversation.
"Once you get separate space I do think you begin to lose intimacy. Even if you say 'we don’t have to sleep together to have sex', it’s a much bigger overture to go to someone’s room and knock on the door."
Marshall believes it would better serve the relationship for the guilty party to seek expert help to address their snoring.Daily Mail