Are you and your partner going through a ‘sleep divorce’?
😴 More than one in three Americans suffer from "sleep divorce"
😴 Sleep divorce is prevalent among millennial couples
😴 Snoring, alarms, and sleep apnea are some reasons for sleep divorce
Have you ever heard of “sleep divorce”? It sounds like a harsh term but it’s actually quite common.
More than one in three Americans go through a sleep divorce, according to a study from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
What is “sleep divorce”?
Sleep divorce is when someone regularly or occasionally sleeps in another room than their partner in order to get some rest without distractions like snoring or alarms.
What are some other reasons for “sleep divorce?”
There are other reasons why couples may sleep apart, said Dr. Nadia Sadik, a pulmonary and sleep disorder specialist at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center.
Sometimes it could be one person is a shift worker and has different sleep and wake times than their partner. It could be that one person is a night owl and the other is a morning lark or it could be that one person likes the room cold, and the other likes the room hot. This is often the case among menopausal women, Sadik said.
Still, snoring is the most common reason for “sleep divorce,” Sadik said. When some snores very loudly, it can disrupt the other person’s sleep, which prompts one of them to go into another room.
Sleep apnea is also another reason why couples may not sleep together in the same bed.
“With that, there is a pause in the breathing. When you pause or stop breathing for a few seconds, it interrupts the sleep. The brain doesn’t shut all the way down and it fires up all night long trying to chase these little pauses away. The pauses are called apnea,” Sadik said.
The next day, the person with sleep apnea may feel tired and irritable. They may have morning headaches and even a dry mouth because they did a lot of mouth breathing during the night, she added.
The good news is that sleep apnea is treatable. Sadik said it’s important to call a primary care physician or a sleep disorder specialist to get checked out. A doctor will conduct an interview, and take a medical and sleep history. From there, they can determine if a sleep study is needed. If sleep apnea is identified, a doctor can make a personalized and individualized attack plan for it.
What else did the survey find?
The data in the survey also found that sleep divorce was most prominent among millennials, with 43 percent who said they sleep in different rooms to accommodate a bed partner.
Sadik said this is not surprising because cultures change from generation to generation. The new generations are more savvy about the importance of sleep and how it affects their health.
Men are most likely to hit the sofa or a guest room, with 45% reporting they consistently or occasionally sleep in another room, compared to just 25% of women.
What can people do to get a better night’s sleep?
While some couples may embrace “sleep divorce” in order to get more rest, and in turn, save their relationships, there are many who may have trouble sleeping in the same bed with someone else but yet, don’t have the desire to sleep apart from them.
It is important to first identify if there is a medical issue involved. If not, and it’s just because someone’s sleep habits are off, then Sadik said there are a few things couples can do to promote a better night’s sleep.
Many people have racing thoughts in the middle of the night, which makes it harder to fall back to sleep. Sadik said to avoid “clock watching.” It’s better to not know what time it is because staying in the dark and not turning on a light from a phone to check, will help someone sleep better.
If you suffer from insomnia, Sadik said to try doing some relaxation exercises. “Think of an image that you find relaxing or that you find peaceful, and try to run that peaceful image through your head. It might help push out the racing thoughts a little bit,” she explained.
Three things that are common in our culture are caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine, all of which should be avoided in the evening because they are stimulants and will keep you awake at night, Sadik said.
Since people tend to have a busy day with work, school, and other commitments, they may exercise at night. That’s a big no-no, Sadik said.
Exercising at night gets the adrenaline running, which in turn, makes it very difficult to go to sleep.
Avoid TV and screen time from devices like cellphones, laptops, iPads, and more.
“That light pushes melatonin away. Melatonin is a natural hormone in our brain that helps us go to sleep. But as soon as melatonin sees a little flash of sunlight, or TV light, or electronic light, it kind of washes it away. So, now your hormone that helps you go to sleep is washed away,” Sadik said.
Don’t avoid sleep issues and do not be shy or embarrassed by them, she said. Contact a doctor to find out if there’s a medical reason why you can’t sleep. Let the professional take it from there, and help devise a customized plan to help you and your partner catch more zzzzzs.
For more about the “sleep divorce” survey from AASM, visit here.