I see a lot of complaints in insomnia forums about snoring husbands and wives: “At night my wife morphs into a Mack truck!” “My husband’s snoring can shake the paint off the walls!”

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Maybe these snorers have sleep apnea and should go to the doctor to see if it can be corrected. Then again, maybe they don’t have sleep apnea, and maybe snoring is part of the package we sign for when we pledge to stay together for better and for worse.

The problem can be infuriating, especially if you’re prone to insomnia anyway. Just as you’re drifting into slumber, being wrested out of the arms of Morpheus by the snort that shook the world can make you mad enough to want to punch your partner out! But there is a simple solution: sleep in separate beds.

A Lucy and Ricky Arrangement

I know, I know: where’s the appeal in that? Separate beds are way uncool, what your parents turned to in old age, what you saw in 1950s sitcoms, or for kings and queens who slept in separate bedrooms so consorts could visit in the night. “Sleeping together” is an expression for one of the deepest forms of human intimacy. Why would anyone want to forgo that?

I spent years fighting the idea of separate beds myself. I love my husband dearly, but in matters of sleep we’re completely mismatched. I’m a light sleeper who awakens at the slightest noise or movement, and my husband is a snorer and a thrasher. How could two people so different in their behavior hope to pass the night harmoniously in the same bed?

But oh, how we tried. My first line of defense was my Mack’s earplugs, which muffled some of the noise. But they didn’t block it out completely. Many were the nights when I slipped under the covers wondering if a loud snort or jiggling of the mattress would hijack my sleep. The anticipation alone kept me tense and wakeful.

Sleeping Solo

Then I started keeping a foam futon under the bed for times when the snoring or thrashing began. I could pull it out at night and push it out of sight in the daytime, and still maintain an image of myself and my husband as a typical couple sleeping side by side. A few years later my husband built a platform for the futon (a permanent fixture, but still not a bona fide bed). Finally we faced the music: not only were we a two-car family, but we were also a two-bed family. We bought the extra bed, and we’ve never looked back.

Sleeping together in the same bed is highly overrated, if you ask me. Yes, that skin-against-skin feeling is warm and comforting. You can preserve it by spending part of the night together, as we often do. But apart from sex, why really do you need a bed other than to sleep? And when you’re sleeping, just how aware are you of your partner’s whereabouts? She could be asleep beside you, but she could also be on the living room sofa or partying down in Atlantic City for all you know.

The point of sleep is to disengage from consciousness and stay there, and awaken feeling refreshed and ready for the day. If sleeping in separate beds can make it happen, why hold out?

What sleeping arrangements do you have that help you sleep? What works and what doesn’t?

Posted by Lois Maharg, The Savvy Insomniac

Lois Maharg has worked with language for many years. She taught ESL, coauthored two textbooks, and then became a reporter, writing about health, education, government, Latino affairs, and food. Her lifelong struggle with insomnia and interest in investigative reporting motivated her to write a book, The Savvy Insomniac: A Personal Journey through Science to Better Sleep. She now freelances as an editor and copy writer at On the Mark Editing.

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