He snores until the walls rattle. She gives off a massive amount of body heat. One of you is a cover hog, kicks at night or takes consistent 3 a.m. bathroom breaks. Maybe you sleepwalk or suffer from insomnia.
The list of reasons why your bed partner might be keeping you up at night could be long and as dreary as your mood when you drag yourself from bed each morning.
When it comes to your health, that’s nothing to yawn at: Being deprived of a full seven to eight hours of sleep each night has been linked to a higher risk of diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease and dementia, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There’s an emotional toll as well, said sleep specialist Wendy Troxel, a senior behavioral scientist at RAND Corporation who authored “Sharing the Covers: Every Couple’s Guide to Better Sleep.”
“Sleep deprivation can affect key aspects of relationship functioning, like your mood, your level of frustration, your tolerance, your empathy, and your ability to communicate with your partner and other important people in your life,” Troxel said.
Poor sleep — and that resulting crummy mood — makes people “less able to engage in ‘perspective taking,’ or putting small adverse events in context,” said sleep specialist Rebecca Robbins, an instructor in the division of sleep medicine for Harvard Medical School, who coauthored the book “Sleep for Success!”
That strain can contribute to depression, anxiety, and other emotional and relationship dysfunction, Robbins said.
“Unfortunately, this (strain) triggers a negative feedback loop whereby the next night’s sleep suffers,” Robbins said. “The process can devolve into concerning mental health symptoms quickly.”
What’s the answer? Kicking your sleep partner to the curb, uh, a separate bed, is definitely an option.
“The question I always get is, ‘Is it bad if my partner and I sleep apart?’ The answer is no, not necessarily,” Troxel said. “It can even have some significant upsides.”
Research done by Troxel and her team found that a well-rested person is “a better communicator, happier, more empathic, more attractive and funnier” — all traits that are key to developing and sustaining strong relationships, she said.
Sleeping apart can help couples be happier, less resentful and more able to enjoy their time together in bed, particularly on weekends when work demands are lighter, Troxel said.
“I tell couples to try to think of it not as a filing for sleep divorce, but as forging a sleep alliance,” she added. “At the end of the day, there is nothing healthier, happier and even sexier than a good night of sleep.”