How to Cope When You and Your Partner Have Different Sleep Styles

Take your relationship stress out of the bedroom

After a long and stressful day, there’s nothing better than crawling into bed and falling fast asleep… that is, until your partner cannonballs into bed three hours later and jolts you out of your much-needed slumber.

Sound familiar? Research suggests up to 60 percent of Americans share a bed with someone else, and many of those people suffer from inadequate sleep as a result of conflicting sleep styles.

Partners might have trouble sleeping together for a number of reasons, from different work schedules, circadian rhythms, and/or energy levels to sleep disorders or the simple matter of personal preference. No matter the cause, it’s important that you as a couple figure out how to ensure you’re both getting quality sleep. Here are several strategies for making it happen.

Pursue treatment for sleep disorders

If one of you is keeping the other one up at night because of snoring, sleep apnea, insomnia, or other sleep issues, then it’s important to have those issues diagnosed. Pursuing a treatment plan will help eliminate the source of the problem, thereby enabling you both to enjoy a better night’s sleep.

Find the middle ground

If you like to be in bed at 10 and your partner prefers to stay up ‘til midnight, for example, see if you can meet in the middle by hitting the sheets together at 11. Make this change gradually so your bodies can gently adapt to the new sleep pattern.

If this simply isn’t possible (say, because one of you works night shifts or there’s a larger gap in your preferred bedtimes), then be sure to communicate about your schedules on a daily basis so you can each accommodate the other person as much as possible.

Be courteous

Basic courtesy can go a long way toward ensuring you both get better sleep. For example:

  • If one of you goes to sleep first, the other one should make a point of being quiet whenever they come to bed.
  • If one of you wants to read when the other is ready to hit the sheets, take the book to another room instead of keeping your partner up with lamplight.
  • If one of you wants to watch movies or TV while the other one wants to snooze, use headphones or go to another room.
  • If one of you wakes up earlier than the other, consider using a vibrating alarm clock in your pillowcase so it’s less likely to wake up your partner. 

The old adage applies here: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Create an environment that’s conducive to sleep

No matter when a person likes to go to bed or wake up, research suggests we all sleep best when a number of factors are in place. Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool and that you have a comfortable mattress and bedding. These small tweaks will increase the likelihood of both of you sleeping through the night—no matter when you hit the sheets.

Change your attitude

Sure, it would be nice if you and your partner went to bed and woke up at the same time every day. But there’s a silver lining to having mismatched sleep schedules: If you’re awake while your partner is asleep, that gives you a chance to enjoy some alone time.

You have an opportunity to use that time to pursue hobbies, read a favorite book, journal, or otherwise benefit from some quality time with yourself. Or meet up with friends you haven’t seen in a while—expanding your social support network can take some of the pressure off your relationship.

Consider separate beds or bedrooms

Sure, most couples would rather sleep together than apart. But if you’ve tried the other options on this list and nothing seems to be working, separate beds or bedrooms might be the best strategy for maintaining your sanity—and your relationship—in spite of conflicting sleep schedules. When you’re both sleeping better, you’re less likely to bicker over lost sleep and more likely to have the energy needed to enjoy quality time together.

Whether you take more drastic measures or find a compromise that works for both of you, it’s important that you and your partner work together to develop strategies that enable you both to get sufficient amounts of high-quality sleep on a regular basis. Both of you (and your relationship) will be better for it. 

Relationships, Sleep

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