After waking up from her husband’s snoring too many times to count Lilly Grossman decided it was time to sleep in separate bedrooms.
Ten years later, Grossman and her husband sleep in separate bedrooms not only at home, but on vacations, and she believes they may have gotten a divorce if she continued to lay awake in the same room with him. Now instead of waking up irritable and struggling to stay awake throughout the day, Grossman said she feels closer to her husband than ever before.
“We both wake up energized through the day, and we enjoy each other’s company when we are awake and when it matters,” Grossman said.
And despite a decision that she says shocked a few friends, Grossman is far from alone. A survey from the National Sleep Foundation found that almost one in four married couples sleep in separate beds, while the National Association of Homebuilders predicted years ago that dual master bedrooms could become the new norm in custom-built homes.
Whether it’s because of different sleep schedules, snoring, or restless leg syndrome, couples make the decision to sleep separately for a slew of reasons.
“If you think about it, sleep is eroding for a lot of us, so we are declining in our hours of sleep, and it affects the relationship if people aren’t getting sleep,” according to Jane Brewster, a psychotherapist based in Alexandria, Va.
But despite the need for rest, sleeping separately is still something that many may not feel comfortable talking about, Brewster said.
"It's tough because there is that worry and shame about sleeping separately being some kind of indicator, but it's also more acceptable because people are sleeping separately more and more," she said.
From Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip to reports that President Trump and Melania Trump sleep separately, the decision to part at bedtime doesn't mean couples are in trouble, especially if they implement strategies to keep the relationship strong.
"Couples have to figure out what works for them," according to Mary Andres, a professor at the University of Southern California, and co-coordinator of marriage and family therapy program.
She notes that roommates sleep separately and usually aren't lovers, so it's important to use care and attention to reinforce that your partner isn't just a roommate, but also your significant other.
Couples who decide to sleep separately, but worry about closeness, should decide what is important to them. Whether it's deciding on a TV show to watch each night, eating dinner together, or cuddling and sex before bed, it's important to implement strategies to ensure that a partner's needs for intimacy are met.
"People have to define what intimacy looks like for them," Andres said. "People have different ways of expressing love, and one is physical displays of affection, one is gift giving, one is compliments, one is quality time."
Grossman said she and her husband share the master bedroom, but at night he goes to a separate room.
"We find time to spend time together and there's never an issue intimacy wise, it was just ok we've got to go to bed and get up early, so we have to sleep," she said.
And despite what opinions others have about a couple's decision to sleep separately, at the end of the day those getting a full-night's rest may be getting the last laugh.
"Whether people share the same bed or not, sleeping together overnight doesn’t create the intimacy that is meaningful intimacy," Brewster said, adding she sees couples who sleep together at night, but can barely be in the same room during the day.
It's about what you do while you're awake, too, she said.
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