How sleeping separately improves some relationships

Despite the derisive term “sleep divorce” that’s often applied to couples who sleep apart, those who do so say it’s more restful than the alternative.

By Shelly BrisbinApril 10, 2024 4:05 pm,

Sleeping separately from a partner could be a literal manifestation of distance in the relationship.

Or, it could be a means of making the relationship better.

Regular Standard contributor Omar Gallaga wrote recently for CNET about how some couples say maintaining separate beds has actually helped their relationship. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: What got you interested in this topic of couples deciding to sleep apart?  

Omar Gallaga: Well, there were a bunch of stories last year around this study that was released by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine where they said, after a survey of 2,000 U.S. adults, that about a third of people are sleeping separately – a third of couples.

And there was a bunch of stories that came out around that time about celebrities who are doing this. Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden were among them. And this topic just sort of seems to appeal to a lot of people.

And when I put the word out on Facebook saying “hey, is anybody doing this? Do you know anybody that you could refer to that I could talk to?,” I was just surprised by how many people said, “oh yes, we do this. We’ve been doing this for years.” Or “I know somebody that does this.” It’s just much more widespread than I think people would expect.

If not to put a little distance between each other, then why? 

Well, there’s all kinds of reasons.

I mean, some of it is sleep apnea – if you sleep with someone who snores a lot and you just can’t get any sleep because of that. Differing schedules – that seems to be happening a lot more. People are on different work shifts or parenting shifts, and that can be a problem.

Sometimes it’s just preferences. Like, this person likes to sleep with the TV on while this person needs total darkness and a white noise machine.

I spoke to a sleep expert about this, and they said, “you know, I think it’s just the awareness of it that people are becoming more and more aware of how important it is to get a good night’s sleep. And when that’s not happening, you gotta start making some changes.”

And so this practice, at least by those standards, could actually help the relationship long term?

It can. And I think that that’s kind of where we bump up on the term “sleep divorce,” which was used in a lot of these articles last year that I saw.

And the couples I talked to – I talked to quite a few couples that reached out or that I was able to find – and they really don’t like that term because it implies there’s something wrong with the relationship, when in fact, a lot of these couples are finding that this is actually really helping them. It makes them less cranky. They’re less sleep deprived. It actually can really help a relationship. 

Yeah, it’s interesting though. You sort of anticipated what I was going to ask about a sort of stigmatizing effect. I guess a lot of folks who do sleep separately wouldn’t be eager to admit that, because that friend might make some false assumptions about the relationship. 

Yeah. It’s that, and then also some people don’t want anyone to know that they are bad snorers or that they use a CPAp or whatever.

But there’s still some stigma around that. I had couples who reached out to me and said, “I’ll talk to you, but my partner won’t.” Or “my partner says I can’t talk to you, but I’ll talk to you off the record about it.”

There’s still a lot of people who just don’t want to talk about it, or at least don’t want to air that publicly. 

What about what folks can do to improve their own sleep, especially if they want to continue sleeping in the same bed? 

There’s one method called the Scandinavian sleep method that’s become popular. And that’s basically you have your own duvet or blanket. You don’t share the blanket, so you don’t have that tussle back and forth of like, you know, the blanket being pulled to and from.

Some people are using things like cooling pads, like you just want one side of the bed that’s cooler than the other because you like to sleep cooler. So you have kind of a different channel. Of course, there’s like sleep mattresses that have different firmness.

Some of it is just negotiated. It’s just like, “you know what? What can we do?” That sort of a compromise, that works for both of us and being respectful about it.

That’s the one thing I heard from sleep experts, was be respectful. Don’t just yell at your partner about how you’re not getting sleep. This really has to be a kind of a delicate negotiation to make sure that you’re both able to get some good sleep every night.  

If you found the reporting above valuable, please consider making a donation to support it here. Your gift helps pay for everything you find on and Thanks for donating today.