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Is It A Bad Thing If A Married Couple Is Headed For A 'Sleep Divorce'?

What if sleeping with your spouse is damn near unbearable?


Is it just me or does it seem like society is constantly looking for ways to redefine something? I don't know about y'all but when I was taught about marriage, a part of what came with it was sharing a life — and home — with your partner until life parts you (at least, that's what most vows say). These days, it's like folks are on a constant quest to be married while remaining as close to being single as they possibly can. Yeah, that's not really how marriage works. Anyway, in walks the concept known as a sleep divorce.

If you've never heard of one before and you're curious, that's what we're gonna unpack today. What exactly is a sleep divorce? What are the pros and cons of getting one? And finally, why you should think long and hard about before actually considering signing up for one in the first place.

What Exactly Is a Sleep Divorce?


Although most of us know what a divorce is, have you ever looked up the actual definition of the word before? A divorce is "a judicial declaration dissolving a marriage in whole or in part, especially one that releases the marriage partners from all matrimonial obligations". Honestly, this is probably a really good place to start with the whole sleep divorce term because it's all about making the decision not to sleep (literally sleep) with your partner. The reasons why, I'll get into in the next section. For now, though, I think the first thing that should be explored is if you consider sharing a marriage bed an "obligation" (a binding promise, contract, sense of duty, etc.) or not within your relationship.

I mean, if you look at things from a biblical perspective, it's interesting that Hebrews 13:4 says that the marriage bed is undefiled. I also like a Scripture in Song of Solomon that simply says, "our bed is green" (Song of Solomon 1:6). Seems to me that sharing a bed with your beloved is a part of what comes with being married.

Still, that doesn't change the fact that the phenomenon of a sleep divorce is becoming more and more popular. In fact, some studies say that as much as 25 percent of couples are now opting for a sleep divorce. A survey of 3,000 Americans revealed that even more (31 percent) are down to give it a shot. And why are couples deciding that this is the route to go? Good question.

What Are the Pros of Having a Sleep Divorce?


It probably comes as no secret to you that sleep deprivation is a huge epidemic in this country. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, as much as 70 percent of us have reported having trouble falling or staying asleep at least one night per month. 11 percent say that this is an every evening occurrence. While things like stress, anxiety, eating late, health-related issues, mood swings, kids ('cause, let's be real), addiction to electronic devices and not putting oneself on a sleep schedule can all play a direct role in why we're not getting good quality rest, so can things like a snoring partner, someone wanting a room at a different temperature or one person being a night owl (even in bed) while the other is an early riser. For people who fall into the latter category, when a compromise isn't found, oftentimes it's decided that they should go through a sleep divorce — either they and their partner should sleep in separate beds in the same room or even sleep in different rooms entirely.

And just what are the main benefits of taking this approach? While I'm pretty sure that you can already tell that I'm not the biggest fan of sleep divorces, I do get what would cause someone to get to this point. Matter of fact, I once dated someone who was a pretty loud snorer and it drove me absolutely mad. To tell you the truth, as I was going through the reasons for why I didn't think the relationship wasn't going to work or last, long-term, I'd be lying if I said that his snoring wasn't somewhere on the list. So yeah, considering the fact that sleep deprivation is directly tied into things like obesity, heart disease, diabetes, mental health-related issues, inflammation and even shortened longevity, of course, getting a good night's rest, as much as possible, is paramount.

And that is the main reason why those who are in full support of sleep divorces say that it's such a good idea; especially if it's getting to the point and place where their lack of quality sleep has them so pissed off that they're literally on the verge of going from a potential sleep divorce to an actual divorce because they have trouble concentrating at work, keeping their moods in check or not being hypersensitive due to them being utterly exhausted all of the time. So I get it — if a sleep divorce means getting some zzz's and not standing before a judge, I can see the benefits that come with having one.

Still, I'm not so sure that couples who are down for a sleep divorce are also considering the potential cons that come with making this kind of decision as well. And there are more than a few.

Just What Are the Cons of Getting a Sleep Divorce?


OK, so your spouse has you to the point where if you don't get out of the room with them, you might literally lose your mind. While on the surface it might seem like, "No problem. I'll just sleep in the guest room", there are some things that should be pondered, long and hard, first.

Some couples only get real quality time during pillow talk at night. Between hectic schedules and/or kids, sometimes the only time that couples are able to be alone is when they are in bed together. If you're never sharing/sleeping in the same room, are you sure you're going to be proactive about making (re)connecting a priority?

What will sleeping apart do to your sex life? Lawd. Already where it stands, 15-20 percent of couples are in a sexless marriage (random point, did you know that the best times of year to have sex are fall and winter?). Anyway, although a lot of people are team morning sex, let's not act like sex at night isn't super convenient. Let's also not act like a lot of us tend to fall asleep right after a good session goes down. So yes, while it's feasible that you could have sex and then go into another room afterwards or get up from your slumber to go have sex elsewhere, what actually is the probability that sex will happen much that way? In other words, is your sleep divorce going to cause your sex life to suffer? And if so, can you and your relationship afford for that to happen? Here's a hint: probably not.

Sleeping together reduces stress levels. I've brought up oxytocin up quite a bit in my articles on this platform. That's because, one of its proven benefits is it's a natural hormone that helps you to feel closer to your partner. Wanna know when it elevates? When you're doing things like kissing, cuddling and having sex? As a bona fide bonus, not only does it make you want to be more intimate with them, it also reduces your cortisol (stress hormone) levels too. This is another reason why sharing a bed with your spouse is so important. It is literally good for your health.

Learning how to sleep with your partner teaches compromise. I'm a marriage life coach. I share that often. What I don't say, nearly as much, is my emphasis is on reconciling/restoring divorced couples. There is a line in the movieIt's Complicated (Alec Baldwin, Meryl Streep) where Alec's character says to his ex-wife (paraphrased), "More divorced couples should get back together after 10 years of being apart. They know each other really well and there was time to grow so that they'll be a better fit." You'd be surprised how much truth there is to that. While definitely not in all instances, I have to say that in many, if couples were just open to not quitting so quickly, to finding common ground and to looking for ways to compromise, their relationship could remain intact.

The reality is that a lot of marriages don't work because a lot of people are too selfish for that kind of relationship; it's more about getting what they can from someone else than what they can bring to the union. And if there's one area that compromise presents itself, believe it or not, it's in the marriage bed.

Figuring out how to decorate the bedroom space. Determining if there should be electronic devices in there or not (heads up, there really shouldn't be). Figuring out how much sex should go down (as far as consistency goes). Deciding if you should go to bed at the same time or not (it's healthier when you do, by the way). And yes, working through each other's sleeping patterns as you share such an intimate space.

Yeah Shellie, I hear you. But his snoring is about to make me catch a case. For real, for real.

How to Make Snoring More Tolerable in a Marriage


Let me just say that when it comes to considering a sleep divorce, I make the same recommendation for it that I do for an actual divorce — if nothing is getting better, be open to seeing a reputable therapist/counselor/relationship life coach. They may be able to offer up some tips to keep you and yours in the literal same sleeping and sexing space. As far as being married to a snorer goes, I've got a few hacks that just might help. As soon as tonight, even.

Eat non-inflammatory foods. I know. You've heard that you should have a glass of milk before turning in, all of your life. Here's the thing, though. Dairy often triggers inflammation in our system and when that happens, it can put unnecessary stress on your throat which can lead to snoring (so, at the very least, do a milk alternative like almond or oat milk). So can eating too late at night because sometimes, when that happens and you go to lie down, your chest can feel additional stress during the digestive process which can make it difficult to breathe. So, in the evening, try and avoid consuming a lot of dairy, sugar, gluten or fatty foods. Go with berries, broccoli, grapes, dark chocolate or green tea instead.

Reduce alcohol intake. Did you know that weak tongue and throat muscles can also cause snoring (there are helpful exercises that you can try here)? Well, believe it or not, alcohol actually relaxes your throat muscles. And if you drink it a couple of hours before bedtime, that can trigger you to snore more too. So, if a glass of wine before bedtime is your man's thing and yet he's snoring you out of the bed at night, he might need to swap it out for grape or tart cherry juice (an awesome sleep agent) instead.

Invest in a humidifier. A humidifier is a device that adds moisture into the air. The benefits that come from having one in your bedroom is it can help to reduce virus-related particles that may be in the air (that could give you the flu), keep your hair and skin from drying out and definitely decrease the amount that you or your partner snores. Dry air is what prevents our throats to be as lubricated as they should. When that happens, it tends to make us snore more (or louder). A humidifier can nip a lot of this in the bud.

Keep water by the bed. Did you know that when you're dehydrated, your system creates more mucus and that could also cause you to snore (or snore more often or louder)? That's why remaining hydrated throughout the day and even keeping a bottle of water on your nightstand could prove to be an ultimate non-snoring hack.

Do some spooning. Long story short, sleeping on your back causes your tongue to put pressure on your airways, making it harder to breathe, which definitely ups the chances of a snore-fest. Sleeping on your side can reduce a lot of that — and what better way to get into that position than by spooning, right?

Listen, there's absolutely no way that one article alone can prevent a sleep divorce from happening. All I'm saying is if you're teetering on getting on, try some of these things out first. A perk to being married shouldn't just be to share a life. There is real intimacy that comes from sharing a bed...too.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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