More

This couple is very much in love. That's why they sleep separately.

Just because sharing a bed is considered the cultural norm, doesn't mean it's always the best option.

This couple is very much in love. That's why they sleep separately.

Melissa Bunker has been sleepwalking since she was a little kid.

It was harmless enough at first. She has silly stories, like the time in college when she walked around her dorm, took all the pictures off the wall, and then crammed them into the fridge.

After Melissa got married and began sharing a bed with her husband, Leon, the stories got stranger. One night, she woke up in the hospital and was told she had driven, in her sleep, from her home in North Carolina to the border of South Carolina.


Her sleepwalking, combined with Leon's snoring ("He sounds like a werewolf in heat," Melissa says), means there aren't many restful nights for the pair.

Image via iStock.

Eventually, Melissa's excessive sleepwalking, or somnambulism, was diagnosed as a symptom of sleep apnea, a serious disorder that occurs when a person's breathing is disrupted during sleep, often causing snoring.

After working with a sleep disorder specialist and getting CPAP treatment, Melissa is often able to spend a full night in bed.

But even with the diagnosis, Melissa and her husband don't share a bed every single night.

Melissa says she doesn't like the general judgment society seems to have about the practice of a couple sleeping in separate beds.

"It works for me and my husband," Melissa says. "What's more socially acceptable nowadays? Multiple partners in one bed or multiple beds with one partner?"

Image courtesy of Everett Collection.

Perhaps the instinct to judge co-sleeping — and deciding not to — is a result of popular culture, suggests Lisa Medalie, a behavioral sleep medicine specialist at the University of Chicago.

"Interestingly, co-sleeping with a spouse was not always the norm," she says. "If you look back to television shows from the '60s, for example, shows like 'Dick Van Dyke' showed separate beds for the spouses in the bedroom. At this point in time, sitcoms largely show spouses sleeping in the same bed."

Image via CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images.

About 1 in 4 couples sleep separately, according to a survey from the National Sleep Foundation. And more recent surveys indicate that number could be climbing.

With so many couples sleeping apart, it's hard to understand why the phenomenon is associated with shame.

Part of it may be in the assumption there is no sexual intimacy, but Melissa says for Leon and her, that's not true at all. She wouldn't see Leon for long stretches of time while he was in an active duty military post. "Was I lonely? Yes. But did our intimacy wane? Absolutely not."

"Intimacy is going to be a case by case study," Melissa continues. "You can have someone who has a picturesque relationship — same bed or different country, they'll have that bond."

Just because sharing a bed is considered the norm, it's not necessarily better or more healthy.

"It would be great if people were more comfortable talking about things that troubled them so that others going through the same thing did not feel alone with their struggle," Medalie says.

We use beds to get a good night's sleep. You do not need to share a bed to have a loving and intimate relationship, but you do need a good night's sleep to be a high-functioning, happy partner.

"If a couple simply prefers to sleep separately, there is no need to feel wrong or bad about that preference," Medalie says, freeing us all from cultural judgment.

There you have it, doctor's orders.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less