It’s a widely accepted social norm that couples sleep cozily together every night in one bed. If they aren’t, well, you might assume the relationship is on shaky ground. But this togetherness isn’t some hallowed ancient tradition, and many couples are ignoring it for the sake of better sleep.
Data suggest there’s a slow shift toward a more relaxed view of co-sleeping. According to the British Sleep Council, more people — or at least Brits — are reporting that they sleep separately. The percentage of people who said they sleep apart every night increased from 8% in 2013 to 12% in 2017, and the percentage who said they sleep away from their partner at least part of the time rose from 22% to 24% during the same period. Another study from Ryerson University in Toronto in 2013, found that up to 40% of couples sleep separately.
It’s unclear whether people are sleeping apart more often, or if they’re becoming more comfortable revealing their sleep habits. Either way, the trend torpedoes the assumption that partners always sleep side by side.
Neil Stanley, a sleep researcher and author of the book How To Sleep Well conducted a study at the University of Surrey in 2005 that found people often struggle to get a good night’s rest when they sleep next to their partner. Yet because they perceive sleeping together as the “normal” thing to do, couples continue to share a bed, despite the health consequences.
But sleeping together as a couple is no more normal than sleeping apart. Close to 10 people I interviewed told me they prefer to sleep apart from their partner. Robert, a writer based in Pennsylvania, said that he and his wife have slept apart for the entire eight years that they’ve lived together (he asked that only his first name to be used). “We both snore a bit,” he says, “and we are both violent dreamers who flail about during the night.”
Layla Schlack, a senior editor at Wine Enthusiast, says she and her partner sleep apart primarily…