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 movie It'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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