Who says happily ever after has to take place in one bed?
Not anyone who has slept next to a snorer. Andrea Blake (not her real name) spent years elbowing her husband, Bill, to try to quiet the nightly noise. For a spell, she was snoring too, disrupting his sleep. Finally, the couple—who live in suburban Virginia—found their perfect solution: They start the night together in their king-size bed, then retreat to their own cocoons. (Andrea affectionately calls Bill’s room “The Snoring Chamber.”)
While the Blakes’ solution may seem radical, it’s something of a trend: One survey by the National Sleep Foundation found that almost one in four couples sleep in separate beds. The arrangement has reportedly been tried by celebs (Angelina and Brad, though we know how that turned out...), presidents (including Taft, Harding, Wilson, and Trump), and even royalty: If you’ve streamed The Crown on Netflix you know that Queen Elizabeth gives Prince Philip the nightly kiss-off (of course that might have to do with how awful he is portrayed).
This divide-and-conquer approach to sleep doesn’t surprise Preethi Rajan, MD, a sleep and pulmonary medicine specialist at Northwell Health. “A common complaint I get is, 'Snoring is disrupting my marriage,’” she says. “I hear a lot that one spouse is elbowing the other to get them to stop snoring, then leaving altogether and sleeping somewhere else.”
If you have what sleep experts call “a lower arousal threshold” you’re more likely to be disturbed by the background sights and sounds that come with sharing a bed. Actor Rob Lowe recently told Ellen DeGeneres that he can’t sleep because of his wife’s tech habits (she plays “Family Feud” on her iPad until the wee hours). “I sleep better on the road, because I’m not with my wife,” Lowe said. “It’s the truth. I love her enough to speak the truth.” Dr. Rajan hears similar tales: “Often a couple comes into my practice together. Or sometimes a snorer will come in alone and say, ‘My spouse sent me.’”
Sleep problems tend to be contagious: About one-fourth of Americans say a partner’s tossing and turning keeps them up at least once a week, according to a National Sleep Foundation study. Insomnia can crop up in times of stress; it also tends to worsen during pregnancy and around menopause, upsetting the delicate balance in the bedroom. Forget “in sickness and in health”—our wedding vows should make us promise to stick it out through snoring and duvet hogging, night sweats and midnight tweeting.