Ozzie and Harriet beds: The aftermath of sleeping separately

May 30 | Guest post by venus

This is in response to the insomniac post. I saw a few comments like, "Separate beds will help. Separate rooms would probably help even more." Having experience with this, I wanted to lend my two cents.

By: Maegan TintariCC BY 2.0
My partner and I sleep in separate beds, and I am not sure how I feel about about it.

We were sleeping on a queen mattress my partner had bought several years ago, which was fine for him, but lacking for me. I desperately wanted a memory foam mattress, and he mostly wanted to keep his current mattress, but neither of us was sleeping very well there, for a few reasons.

  1. He's six feet tall and generally is longer than whatever bed he's sleeping on, so he sleeps diagonally. I have trouble sleeping, and had a hard time falling asleep when I had to curve my body around him.
  2. We had blanket/temperature disagreements: I believe that a bed should be very warm and double as a fort, and he's pretty minimalist about covers, and would be annoyed when my extra blankets inevitably encroached on his space, a precious commodity in that bed.
  3. We have a cat who takes up a shocking amount of room, and always found ways to leave one or both of us uncomfortable on the edges of the bed.

Two beds was originally his idea, but once he said it out loud, I immediately began championing it. I prize sleep above all else, and if I'm not sleeping well, everything else suffers. This seemed like the perfect solution to all of our issues. After five months, I can say that it has definitely been a mixed bag, with a few unintended consequences.

We do sleep better

This was the goal, and it has been achieved. I LOVE my bed. It is my special happy place, and I hate when I have to sleep in other places. My partner feels the same way, and both of us have felt that we got what we wanted in terms of improving our sleep.

It has created distance and space between us

Literally. My bed is on a box spring and metal frame, and his is in the low-to-the-ground wooden IKEA frame he's always used. We put a nightstand in between so that we'd both have access to the alarm clock, but it mostly serves to create a literal chasm, with me up high and him down low, and neither of us able to see the other when lying in bed.

Back when we slept in one bed we would hang out before going to sleep — cuddling, catching up, being silly — it was one of my favorite parts of our relationship. Now, that nightly ritual has been somewhat disrupted. We tend to solve it by hanging out in one bed or the other, but it sucks when we get comfortable and start to fall asleep in my bed and then he has to get up and go to his bed. I'm not sure yet how much emotional distance this is causing between us, but it is definitely changing things. I start to feel some regret, because the bed I bought is a full, and there's no WAY that we could both sleep there long term — it's too short for him to be comfortable. But since I invested in the bed, we're kind of stuck with it.

One way to deal with this that we've discussed is to get rid of the night stand and get him a frame so that we can push the beds together into one giant SuperBed.

I forget that it isn't typical

I am always super confused when people talk about being careful getting into bed so as not to disrupt their partner, or other co-sleeping banalities. My frame of reference has completely shifted, and two beds seems like the obvious default to me now. While this isn't something I generally discuss publicly, one time I accidently let the cat out of the bag when talking to a coworker because I mentioned washing my partners' sheets separate from my own. I forgot that what I was describing was atypical! That changed the conversation pretty quickly, to one I didn't mean to be having!

It can be AWKWARD when someone notices

I don't know how to talk about this with people, so I generally don't, and try to keep the bedroom door shut. Except we have roof access from our bedroom door, and we want to bring guests out onto the roof. Most often, no one says anything. It is incredibly awkward when someone sees the two beds, and I see them seeing them, but no one addresses it… Most people don't want to be impolite, but I can never find the words to bring it up, so I don't.

I am always blissfully relieved when someone blurts out "Wow! Separate beds!" because then we have an avenue to discuss it. It does produce extra anxiety for me when we have new people over and I know they might see the two beds and have questions, but not know how to ask them. I don't mind the curiosity, but with new friends or casual acquaintances, I never know how to broach the subject, and it becomes a white elephant. (My partner doesn't find it nearly as awkward as I do.)

So, would I recommend it?

I don't know. Sleep has improved, but it has definitely had an impact on our relationship. Neither of us can accurately gauge just how big that impact is, but we both feel it. We're taking steps to minimize it, and to make sure that the physical space between us doesn't create an emotional one.

  1. We're actually doing something kind of similar but different. We are anxiously waiting on the completion of our handmade traditional shikibuton. After years of struggling with bad traditional mattresses that cost way too much and wore out too soon and caused poor sleep quality. We were fortunate that our last mattress was purchased at Costco and even though it was 18 months old they took it back. It had collapsed after 9 months and we didn't know what to do and finally decided to try the return. Yay Coscto, they are amazing.

    So back to the Shikibuton, my husband is Japanese and his grandparents had the older style in his childhood home. The ones we've ordered are a bit thicker and are being made with organic cotton and every two years we will return them to the maker to have them re-stuffed. That's pretty awesome in my book. We've ordered two twins and the folding foam mattress to go on the floor underneath for softness. We'll push the two twins together at night for a giant king size but still giving each of us our own sleep space and bedding/blankets. The beds will be folded up and put away during the day to save space in our tiny apartment and we're turning our itty bitty bedroom into a closet. We'll be sleeping in the main living space of the apartment Japanese style. It's worked in Japan for hundreds of years why not for us?

    In two weeks the Shikibuton will be done and we can't wait. Eventually we're going to try and save up for tatami to go underneath them too. It's an unconventional solution for sure. Right now we're on separate air mattresses which is kinda lonely. Missing our cuddle time too.

    If there's a way to post photos I'd be happy to do so when we get them. It seems like just the right kind of offbeat home solution :)

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  2. My husband and I have tried the Super Bed before, and it just didn't work out well. One of us always migrated to the Other bed, and the rest of the bed went untouched. After a while things like clothes, and homework, and books took up one twin bed, and we slept on the other.
    So if you're prone to leaving things on the bed, maybe Super Bed isn't the right solution.

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  3. Hi Everyone! Sorry that I was MIA yesterday, work got insane and I didn't get a chance to check this spot until today. Thank you so much for all your great responses! I just thought this was a really interesting issue and wanted to put it out there, and I'm glad I did!

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  4. My husband and I have a king sized bed and we rarely see each other at night (as in don't touch or anything because our bed is so spacious!) I really like it because I cannot sleep when someone else is in my space, not sure that he cares either way because he is a very deep sleeper.

    Our dog slept between us for quite some time so sometimes we would feel disconnected from that as we couldn't really cuddle even if we wanted to. Now we have a 1 month old and he sleeps on my side w/ a bed rail and I am in the middle. I miss my space, though – but want my baby close.

    We also have separate blankets because he is a blanket hog.

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  5. This is so interesting to me, because I *love* sharing a bed with my husband. Seriously, it's my favorite thing ever. Whenever I'm sleeping somewhere else without him for whatever reason, I have to make a little husband stand-in out of pillows to cuddle with or it's hard for me to fall asleep. I would be really upset if he ever wanted to sleep in separate beds. Whatever floats your boat (and gives you the best sleep)!

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  6. My husband and I have OUR room/bed and MY room/bed. I'm a very light sleeper, and keep weird hours due to my job. In order to keep the intimacy factor, I do try to sleep in OUR bed whenever possible, but I always have to wear earplugs because I'm weird about loud sleepy breathing. Bottom line is, I sleep better by myself, and a rested wife is a happy wife, which equals happy life. He's fine with it because when I come home from work at 5am I'm not bothering him or elbowing him in the ribs because he's snoring.

    You gotta do what works for you and your partner. There is no need for feeling anxiety about it, because it is what it is. I have friends who can't imagine sleeping without touching and snuggling in their sleep, and thats fine too! :)

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  7. Me and my Fiance did that for a while when he had to be at work at 6 in the morning. We also have the I like my bed super warm while he likes his with a bit of a breeze. What we finally have decided (especially since I like making the bed once in a while) is to use two quilts (one for me and one for him) instead of one overall blanket. Similar to http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/scandinavian-style-two-duvets-on-one-bed-168149.
    So far it's helped us.

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  8. I suppose I've never considered two separate beds to be a big social issue when talking to other people. My grandparents had similar problems (my grandfather being very tall while my grandmother is an insomniac), so they've always slept in two separate beds. My father has always preferred the living room couch even after my parents went out and bought a new mattress that they both really liked. Their situation has more to do with my dad often going to sleep with the television on.

    As for my fiance and I, we're sleeping on separate twin beds for the time being only because my bedroom with my parents is too small to fit out queen-size mattress. It's been more difficult for us to have intimate time because of how many hours he works, but we've still managed to make it work with cuddling in our beds at times other than sleep. We usually take to his bed since it's on the floor and creates its own intimate space.

    I do wonder if growing up while seeing separate sleeping arrangements has made me more accepting to our situation after reading this, though.

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  9. My Husband; hereafter referred to as the chainsaw swallowing sleestak or just the sleestak, snores so loudly that I can hear him through a closed door.

    We've slept separately for years. His snoring keeps me up and if I manage to be tired enough to sleep through it, I often wake up with a headache!

    I love him, but there have been nights when I've stood over him with a pillow in my hands debating smacking him in the head with it.

    How can THAT possibly be good for your relationship?

    I've recently begun to take some medications that happen to produce a snow white sleepy spell. He's been able to crawl into bed with me once I've been asleep about half an hour without waking me.

    Probably not the best solution, but it is the one that is working for now.

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  10. My wife sleeps on the living room couch because I snore, and although I hated the arrangement at first, I am now used to it. I like to watch TV at night, in bed, and she doesn't so this way we both get what we want. The downside is, we no longer have sex. We are in or 70s, and she has had a total hysterectomy, which might have something to do with it (you think?)

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  11. I would totally go the superbed. Very common in hotels where they say "king size bed" and it's really two singles sandwiched together. You could have your memory foam and he can have what he wants. And do you have "king singles" in the US? We have them in Aus, they are single mattresses for tall people (sorry if this is captain obvious and everyone has these) Maybe single blankets as well? We recently switched from a doona to layers of blankets and we found that it has worked well so far. We have a mix of king sized and single blankets, since I need more blankets than my husband, but we like to snuggle under the same blanket.
    With regard to the cat; we have three cats. My oldest cat is the worst so we have one just one rule for him which is that he cannot sleep between us. If he sneaks in, he gets picked up and moved. He's gotten used to that now and will generally ask to be under the covers on a particular side. He still wakes me up though, and I don't think that will change, sadly. My one freak out is if we get a co-sleeper cot to attach to the bed in the days of future children, will the cat try and sleep in that???

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  12. I've suffered with back problems for many years and my ex-boyfriend (of 7 years) was suffering with insomnia. The combination led to one or the other of us getting up and sleeping in the spare room after a few hours every night. Eventually, we just defaulted to sleeping in the separate rooms. Clearly, things weren't right with us anyway and we drifted apart for various reasons but looking back, this was the beginning of the end for our relationship. It really affected the closeness we felt towards each other. It was an amicable breakup, we had no falling out, we just realised that we had become more like friends living together than romantic partners. I swore I would never sleep separately again. I have been with my current boyfriend for 3 years and we live together. Fortunately he sleeps soundly and my back issues have much improved! I really cherish going to sleep with him and waking up with him. (As many others have suggested I think the beds-pushed-together idea is an excellent idea).

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  13. I just came on to this post and have loved reading all the comments. My husband and I lasted one week in a bed when we moved in together (not married at the time) and have been sleeping in separate rooms for the last 9 years. We are very happy and have a healthy and 'normal' marriage (if you get what I mean!!).

    I am an open person so have always talked freely about our sleeping arrangements. Doing so over the years led me to develop a strong interest in the perceptions of couples who sleep separately – as the main one (captured in the post) being that there must be something wrong with the relationship to send you to separate beds – or even worse, separate rooms.

    This interest led me to talk to more and more people, and eventually decide to write a book. My main aim of the book is to normalise separate sleeping and change the social conversation from judgement to acceptance and understanding. I certainly don't like the perception that people think I am in a doomed relationship – it's anything but.

    My book is called 'Sleeping Apart not Falling Apart: How to get a good night's sleep and keep your relationship alive' published April 2013 (Finch, Australia). It is based on research and conversations with over 100 people, including just over 40 couples. The book looks at how a couple might negotiate sleeping separately between themselves, and then how they can feel confident and comfortable being open about their decision.

    The pressure for couples to sleep together is quite a western culture phenomenon and one that has only been with us since the industrial revolution. African and Asian cultures are not as focused on sleeping in the same bed as a sign of relationship success. These cultures tend to take a more pragmatic and functional view of a couple's sleeping arrangements.

    It really comes down to what works for you. If you want to snuggle and spoon your partner every night – that's great! But if you want the quiet and space of your own room every night (or just some nights) then that's great too!! There should be no judgement either way.

    Of most importance is that each person in a couple is well rested so their physical, emotional and mental health is being attended to – it's the best way to be your best in a relationship.

    Sleep tight one and all.

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  14. Find the best mattress you can, get some great mattress, add to that a bit of late night pampering and hopefully you are on your way to sweet dreams!

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  15. My fiance and I have separate bedrooms. It's amazing because I have my space and he has his. We both have decorated accordingly to fit our tastes. We sleep together whenever I want (he's always up for it) and he's OK if I'm having a light sleeper week and will go to his own room when I need it. If I want alone time, he knows my room is off limits. It works for us in many ways. I agree about it being atypical. I get over that by bragging how awesome our situation works for us and how he gets his "sex panther" decor and I get my bohemian reading pad.

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  16. My husband and I sleep apart–and I hate it, but I hate more staring at the ceiling listening to him snore. He is an AWFUL snore-r and I wouldn't sleep well on Heaven's puffiest cloud so it makes for a bad combination. I miss him–I miss being held and waking up next to him, but now that he's started snoring more I wouldn't "wake up" next to him anyway, since I'd already be awake! So I guess it works for us, but it still sucks.

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  17. My fiancee and I also sleep separately! It started off him falling asleep on the couch to the TV and then it turned into him always sleeping on the couch. Now we have separate bedrooms. I was hurt when we first talked about it-I thought it reflected on me, on us but I have realized it has nothing to do with "us". I snore. I'm also a light sleeper & sometimes an insomniac. My fiancee has had 2 back surgeries & he also snores! He likes to fall asleep to the TV & I like my white noise. His parents have always slept separately but mine slept together. His parents have been married for over 25 years and my parents are divorced. I've realized over time that the bed situation doesnt define our relationship just our sleep =) It comforts me to read this article and all the responses because it is SO awkward if it accidentally comes up. Even some of my friends look at me like an alien if I mention we have separate bedrooms. Im so glad you wrote this article!

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