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Sleep vs Intimacy: What if they can’t co-exist?

Sleep vs Intimacy: What if they can’t co-exist?

I was recently challenged about the categorical statement that I made in an interview that king size beds ruin marriages. As is often the case, our own personal experiences can color our beliefs.  Also sound bites in an interview can be taken out of context.

In my own marriage, it was not the fact that we slept on other sides of our king size bed that prevented intimacy. Rather it was the lack of emotional connection and intimacy that caused the bed to seem cavernous.

While it’s true that a king size bed makes it easy to crawl to your side of the bed and not touch each other all night long, forcing physical connection by sleeping in a smaller bed, when your relationship is suffering, is not going to solve the intimacy problem either.

So I want to publicly retract that statement and I apologize to anyone who has felt shamed by my opinion. I do however stand by my belief that turning the master bedroom into the family bed or the living room (with TV watching, eating meals etc), is not conducive to intimacy in the long run and should be re-evaluated.

Today, I’m going to go one step further and suggest that we should no longer have to choose between sleep and intimacy.

You see from my own lived experience and speaking with many women in their 50’s and 6o’s,  I now realize how much unnecessary drama and sleep deprivation is caused by the false belief that couples need to sleep in the same bed or bedroom.

I realize that we were all socialized to believe this was normal because this is how our parents and grandparents behaved.

I don’t know. Maybe people didn’t snore back then, or have insomnia, or restless leg syndrome.  Maybe they were all more tolerant or maybe they were afraid to speak out and rock the boat.

The truth is that today over one third of the population has sleep issues, with insomnia and chronic insomnia being the most common.

25% of adults snore regularly, with the highest percentages being among the overweight, middle aged men and post menopausal women. Snoring also gets louder and increases with age.

We also know that having a good restful nights sleep is one of the most important factors for reducing stress and maintaining a strong immune system, which is especially critical in the midst of a deadly pandemic.

It might surprise you to find out that in a recent sleep study, 25% of couples admitted to sleeping in separate beds. That’s quite a bit higher number than I would have predicted, but it makes sense. It seems like the stigma associated with sleeping in different beds is starting to go away.

So if you do chose the separate bed option how do you make sure that it does not impact intimacy?

  • Communicate about Your Needs

As always, authentic, honest communication is the key to maintaining intimacy with your partner. The decision to sleep in separate beds could be triggering to your partner.

It might feel like abandonment or rejection. It’s important that you clearly explain why this is necessary and reassure your partner of your love.

  • Set Ground Rules

The fear around sleeping in separate beds is that sex and intimacy will suffer. However, sleeping in separate beds actually creates the opportunity for more intimacy by setting intentions.

You might decide that you will cuddle every night before you go to sleep (and one of you moves to another bed). You can also agree that whoever wakes up first goes into the other’s bed. And you can set your own rules that makes sense for your unique situation.

  • Maintain other Intimate Activities

Sleeping in separate beds does not mean that you’ve relinquished all the other intimate activities that are part of your routine. Brushing your teeth together, getting dressed in the same room, showering together etc. It’s just for sleeping!

  • Schedule Time for Sex and Intimacy

One of the biggest complaints I hear from clients is that they end up having sex late at night, before they go to bed, when they’re already exhausted. Sound familiar? Not surprising that it’s not the best sex of your life and it’s not something you look forward to.

I tell every single couple, and I practice this myself, to put sex on your calendar. Especially if you have very busy lives, it’s important to set aside a regular time for sex and intimacy.

This does not mean that spontaneous sex goes away. In fact, you’ll likely end up having more spontaneous sex when you have a sex date regularly scheduled.

Scheduling sex makes it a priority in the relationship. It becomes higher on your “to do” list. It also provides opportunity for more creativity because there’s time to plan a sexy date.

Bottom line:  Sleep is important. So is intimacy. You do not need to prioritize one over the other to maintain intimacy. They can happily co-exist!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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