How to know if it’s time to ‘divorce in your sleep’

The list of reasons your bed partner might be keeping you up at night can be as long and dull as your mood when you drag yourself out of bed each morning.

Sleep expert Wendy Troxel, a senior behavioral scientist at RAND Corporation who wrote “Sharing the Covers: Every Couple’s Guide to Better Sleep,” says.

“Sleep deprivation can affect important aspects of relationship functioning, such as mood, frustration levels, tolerance, empathy, and the ability to communicate with your partner,” says Troxel. other important people in your life.

Sleep expert Rebecca Robbins, an instructor in Harvard Medical’s sleep medicine division, said: School, who co-authored the book “Sleep for Success!”

That stress can contribute to depression, anxiety, and other emotional and relationship dysfunction, Robbins says.

“Unfortunately, this (stress) causes a negative feedback loop that affects sleep the next night,” says Robbins. “This process can quickly translate into symptoms related to mental health.”

What is the answer? Pushing your sleeping buddy to the curb, uh, a separate bed, is definitely an option.

“The question I always get is ‘Is it bad if my boyfriend and I sleep apart?’ The answer is no, not necessarily,” Troxel said. “It might even have some significant advantages.”

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Research done by Troxel and her team She finds that a well-rested person is “a better communicator, happier, more empathetic, more engaging, and funnier” – all key traits for developing and maintaining relationships. strong relationship, she said.

Sleeping apart can help couples be happier, less frustrated, and able to enjoy time together in bed, especially on weekends when work demands are lighter, Troxel says.

“I tell couples to try to think of it as not filing for divorce in their sleep but establishing a sleep union,” she adds. “At the end of the day, there’s nothing healthier, happier, and even sexier than a good night’s sleep.”

Rule out potential sleep problems

A sleep partner is often the one to flag the signs of a sleep disorder and encourage their loved one to see a doctor or sleep specialist. Undiagnosed, sleep disorders can be harmful to the future health of you and your partner.

That’s why experts say it’s best to see a sleep specialist to rule out and treat any underlying conditions before leaving your loved one’s bed – you could be key to identifying and treating a real health problem.

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Is it sleep apnea? If snoring is a major problem, it’s important to find out if your partner is suffering from it difficulty breathing while sleeping, a serious sleep disorder in which people literally stop breathing for 10 seconds or more at a time.

When snoring is loud, hoarse, or interrupted by apnea, that’s when we start to worry, says Robbins.

If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea puts you at increased risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, and even premature death. according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Restless limbs syndrome. If your partner’s legs twitch, wobble, or kick, they may have Periodic limb movement disorder or restless legs syndrome, also known as Willis-Ekbom disease. This condition can be treated with lifestyle changes and medication.

Consider medication. Many common medications can cause insomnia or other types of sleep problems. cholesterol and asthma medications, High blood pressure medications, steroids, and antidepressants are just a few of the prescription medications that can be the underlying cause of poor sleep.

Is it an untreated medical condition? Diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, cancer, and many other common conditions can also disrupt sleep with chronic pain or frequent trips to the bathroom.

Coping skills

Once any serious health problems have been ruled out, couples who feel emotionally attached when sharing a bed may want to try some practical coping tips before deciding to sleep apart, says Troxel. together.

Please do not drink alcohol. If you struggle with insomnia, cut out alcohol before bed, experts say. It may seem like it helps you sleep, but actually alcohol causes middle-of-the-night awakenings that are hard to overcome.

Snorers should also cut out alcohol, Troxel says, “because as everyone probably knows, if you sleep with a snorer and they drink too much alcohol, that night the snoring will be much worse. ” That’s because alcohol relaxes throat muscles further, encouraging loud snoring.

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This is where partners can be a powerful and beneficial source of what experts call “social control,” says Troxel.

“If you have a tendency to drink but you know that the consequences are not only bad for your sleep, but also your partner’s sleep, then you’ll probably be motivated to cut back a bit.” she said.

Raise your head. For snoring, try sleeping on an additional pillow or using an adjustable bed — anything that elevates the head to keep the throat open, says Troxel.

“For many people, snoring tends to be worse when they are flying straight, so a little head elevation can help,” she says.

If the underlying problem is congestion, try adding a humidifier to the room, she adds. “Some people have had success with over-the-counter nasal patches to keep airways clear.”

Overwhelm the sound. Survival 101 for dealing with a snoring partner Troxel says it’s trying to deafen the noise. Try earplugs and run a fan or white noise machine.

Try a sleep schedule. A person who snores while sleeping with a partner with insomnia can help that partner sleep more by going to bed later than their partner, says Troxel.

“For example, a snorer might delay their bedtime by half an hour to an hour,” says Troxel. “That allows the partner to go into a deeper stage of sleep and can stay that way when the snorer goes to sleep.”

Turn to sleep. Sleeping on your back is a worse snoring position because the soft tissues of the mouth and tongue are pushed down the throat. When sleepers unconsciously push air through those soft tissues, snoring occurs.

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“If you can keep someone with them, that can lessen the snoring,” says Robbins. “I’ve heard of all sorts of creative techniques, such as putting the snore’s bra upside down and then placing the tennis ball in the cup.”

Sleep expert Dr. Raj Dasgupta, associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, says a full-body pillow may be an option.

“I am a lover of simple things, but if you want to buy something, we have come a long way from sewing tennis balls to the back of pajamas,” says Dasgupta. “You can buy a strap on the back that has little sponge-like things that protrude to make you sleep on your side.

“And there are a number of FDA-approved devices that can be worn around the throat or chest and create vibrations that are designed to be emitted when you’re lying on your back, causing you to transition to side sleep.”

Time for separate rooms?

You’ve tried it all, and a good night’s sleep is still just a distant dream. At this point, there’s no reason not to do what’s best for each person to get the quality sleep you need – especially since there are other ways to nurture a relationship than just sharing a bed. .

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“Couples can still make the bedroom a sacred space, even if they decide not to sleep together,” says Troxel. “You can develop bedtime rituals and use that time to really connect with your partner instead of being alone on your phone or laptop or other things.”

She encourages couples to spend quality time together before bed, sharing the details of the day, and sending positive messages to each other.

“We know self-expression is good for relationships, good for sleep,” says Troxel. “If you tell your partner you’re grateful for them, it’s a form of deep connection. Gratitude is good for relationships, good for sleep.”

Nor does “divorce sleep” mean having a separate bed every night, Troxel says. It could be just a work week, with weekends spent sharing a bed. It could be every other night – the options are unique to each couple.

“There really isn’t one Troxel says a ‘one-size-fits-all’ sleeping strategy is for every couple.


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