Some people dread sharing a bed with a partner while others love it. It often seems like there’s no rhyme or reason to who wants to spend the night, who wants to cuddle all night, and who needs their own space in bed. However, researchers have found that there are both benefits and drawbacks to sharing a bed, particularly if you are a woman.
The Benefits of Bed Sharing
Sleeping in the same bed with a partner seems to enhance sleep. In one study, researchers studied sleep patterns over six to eight years. They found that women in long-term relationships fell asleep fast and woke up less frequently through the night than single women or those who gained and/or lost partners during the study.
Sleeping naked might enhance relationships, too. Partners who slept nude and shared a bed are more likely to say they are happy in their relationship than those who sleep any other way. Sleeping naked may or may not be causal, though. Skin-to-skin contact has long been known to soothe and comfort. However, it may be that these couples are already happy with each other, which is why they are comfortable sleeping together without clothes.
With or without clothing, it seems likely that sharing a bed often involves cuddling, which is known to raise the levels of oxytocin in the body. This hormone lowers anxiety levels and may have something to do with a person’s circadian rhythms. Bed sharing also reduces the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and lowers the number of cytokines in the body (these control inflammation).
It doesn’t even seem to matter whether the couple has one bed that they share or whether they alternate sleeping at both partners’ homes. Both partners are likely to sleep better when they are sleeping together, regardless of where that occurs.
This makes it seem pretty straightforward: sleeping together is better than sleeping alone.
The Difficulties of Bed Sharing
However, sharing a bed with your partner may not be all wine and roses. An older study showed that women woke up more often when they slept in bed with a partner than they did when they slept alone, though there was no difference in wakefulness for men. It is likely true that some women struggle to get good rest when they sleep with their partners.
Other differences between partners can cause conflict. If one partner likes to get up early and the other likes to stay up late, it can be impossible for the couple to get on a single schedule. While one person may try to alter their preferences for the other, the truth is that some people are just wired differently this way. Couples can let this particular difference cause conflict, or they can accept their partners and work around it.
In addition, the overall state of the marriage can either enhance sleep or make it problematic. If there are a lot of negative interactions in the relationship, women are less likely to sleep well. For me, the causation reverses. They are less likely to have negative interactions in their relationship if they rested well the night before. However, when things are going well, both partners sleep better than they do when there is a lot of conflict. Clearing up this conflict, then, could be one step towards better sleep for everyone.
Snoring can be a big rest disruptor, and it’s a problem that couples should tackle together. Often, a doctor can help determine the cause and can offer some solutions to the problem. It may also be an option for the non-snorer to wear earplugs at night, to minimize the sound of the snores.
Sleepers, especially women, need to figure out for themselves whether sharing a bed with their partner is helpful for their rest. Some couples may find that it helps to sleep with separate blankets, buy a bed that minimizes movement disruption during the night, and resolve their conflicts before they rest. Others may find that cuddling before sleep is helpful, even if they end up actually sleeping in separate locations. Whatever, the issue, it’s possible to come up with a compromise that helps couples get the benefits of sleeping together without disrupting the sleep of either partner.