It's a problem a lot of couples face.
The marital bed is a symbol of the intimacy shared between people who’ve decided to be together 'til death they do part. When couples sleep together it’s an expression of their closeness and how they care for one another when they are most vulnerable.
However, for some couples, the marital bed can be a warzone. Throughout the night couples can endure snoring, sleep apnea, the ongoing battle for sheets or circadian rhythms that never seem to sync. If one person likes to fall asleep with the TV on while the other reads a book, it can be impossible to come to an agreement on a good-night routine.
Last week on TODAY, host Carson Daly reminded viewers that he and his wife Siri, a TODAY Food contributor, had a sleep divorce while she was pregnant with their fourth child.
“I was served my sleep-divorce papers a few years ago,” he explained on TODAY. “It’s the best thing that ever happened to us. We both, admittedly, slept better apart.”
“We're both pretty good-sized humans and it just wasn't really working when she was in her third trimester, and I also have sleep apnea, which is very sexy for the ladies out there, I'm sure,” Carson told People at the time. “She couldn't get comfortable, so we were like a commercial you would see, kicking each other and just not sleeping.
“We woke up and we just shook hands like, ‘I love you, but it's time to sleep divorce. It'll be the best thing for all of us,’” he added.
The Dalys’ admission was brave, being that a lot of people associate a couple’s intimacy with their ability to share a bed together. It was probably also a relief to countless couples who feel like they’re the only ones struggling to sleep together.
Upworthy’s Heather Wake described the stress that co-sleeping put on her relationship in a revealing article earlier this year.
\u201cCould a "sleep divorce" save your relationship?\n\n@DrOz joins us to share how the growing trend can actually help keep the love alive.\u201d— TODAY (@TODAY) 1573133783
A sleep divorce may be working for the Dalys, but is it right for everyone?
Wendy M. Troxel Ph.D., a behavioral and social scientist known for her work on sleep and health, believes that couples like the Dalys do right by putting their relationship first.
“Here’s what the science actually tells us about the costs and benefits of sleeping together or apart. When sleep is measured objectively, people actually sleep worse with a partner. In fact, if you sleep with someone who snores, you can blame them for up to 50 percent of your sleep disruptions,” she wrote for TED Ideas.
Troxel points out that even when people suffer from sleep deprivation due to their partner, they still say they prefer sleeping with them versus spending the night alone. She ascribed this opinion to people taking on societal expectations instead of looking at their relationship objectively. “This suggests that our social brain is prioritizing our need for closeness and security at night—even when it comes at a cost to our sleep,” she wrote for TED Ideas.
The Dalys’ admission and Troxel’s research suggest that, in the end, the most important thing is for both partners to get a good night’s sleep, whether that means sleeping in separate beds or in separate rooms. “Just as sleeping together doesn’t guarantee a successful relationship—if only it were that easy!—sleeping apart doesn’t doom you to an unsuccessful one,” Troxel writes.