How can light and heavy sleepers share a bed?

it will be OK
By: armydre2008 – CC BY 2.0
My partner and I are thinking of moving in together. We love the closeness of sleeping in the same bed, but I am a very light sleeper and find myself awake most of the night because of his active sleep pattern, complete with shouting and elbowing me in his sleep.

Besides sleeping in separate beds, which we will consider as a last resort, do you have any advice on us both getting a restful night of sleep in the same bed? -Caitlyn

Along with the separate bed arrangement, we also have a post about:

But we haven't covered the battle of heavy vs light… yet.

Springless mattresses? White noise machines? Pillow barriers? What are your sleeping hacks for light and heavy sleep arrangements?

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  1. I breathe quite loudly in my sleep, and also shuffle around a lot during the night (particularly before I get to sleep). My partner is very sensitive to noise and movements when he is trying to get to sleep (but OK once he has nodded off). Things that (semi) work for us are:
    – sleeping top to tail on nights when he is stuggling to sleep
    – staggering bedtimes (either he comes to bed late if he's working or I read for half an hour whilst he goes to sleep (love my kindle))
    – ear plugs
    – separate duvets (This is amazing! Everyone should do it!).
    – large bed
    – a relatively firm mattress which means movements don't reverberate quite as much
    – as a nuclear option, we have a futon sofabed in the living room where the arms fold down to make a single bed in a matter of seconds. On nights where one of us is really struggling to sleep that's the escape hatch – and as we have separate (double) duvets there is no need to get additional bedding out (I just fold half the duvet underneath me instead of a sheet so I am like a burrito).

    4 agree
    • (for some reason it is not letting me edit the comment above to add):
      His grandparents used to sleep in two single beds pushed together to make one huge bed, which I think would be even better for containing restless movements in the night (although they did it because they liked a different firmness for their mattresses).

      5 agree
    • We use separate duvets too. I can't believe more people don't do this. No fighting over the covers!

      4 agree
      • How does this look when you make the bed? Do they hang over the edge a lot? Are they folded in half? In our apartment you have to walk through the bedroom to get to the bathroom so we try and keep the bed made so it looks ok to guests.

  2. I'm not exactly a light sleeper, but I don't like anything touching me when I sleep. So I have a queen-sized bed with two very large people it in and one of them likes to bring a minimum of three cats to bed with him. We usually end up hot-bunking because of our work schedules (and that works beautifully if that's something y'all can try), but when we do sleep together, I have to kind of carve out my own space. It took more than a couple of conversations, but when he realized it wasn't personal and I still love him, he worked with me as much as he could. He tries to keep the cats away from me and tries to leave some space between us. I had quite a few sleepless nights in the beginning, but I adjusted (and got ear plugs). You *most likely* will too. One of things I found was that I really like being able to reach over and touch Husband when I'm sleeping. It's nice to have that closeness, and I really miss it when we travel and get a king-sized bed.

    So my advice from my situation is communicate with your partner about what you require to rest so that he can try to help you. Get a bed that's big enough for you both to have your space, and give it more than a few nights because you call the experiment a failure. People are, as a species, adaptable, and you may be surprised to find that when you HAVE to, you can become a heavier sleeper.

    1 agrees
  3. My husband is a sleep talker. It bothered me a lot in the beginning because I wasn't used to it, but the longer we're together, the easier it is for me to sort of tune it out…basically it only wakes me up if he's really loud anymore. Luckily it's not an every night thing.
    I did notice that both of us slept better when we had separate comforters, but with us expecting and planning on cosleeping, I'm not comfortable with having that much on the bed. I also found that we seem to do better in a firmer king bed. So if possible, invest in one that has individual coil pockets and doesn't make noise when you move around or get in and out of bed. It makes such a huge difference, even if you share a double or queen mattress. Lastly, white noise helps both of us fall and stay asleep. For us, white noise is a fan we run at night.
    It's very possible to adjust and adapt to sharing a bed with someone who sleeps very differently than you, but it takes time. So have a back up bed/couch for nights that just don't cut it. Hope this helps!

    2 agree
    • You might try separate comforters anyway with co sleeping. That's the one thing we found very difficult to get used to. There's only so much we could change about the way we sleep and we both habitually pull the blanket up about our chests and shoulders. One night the hubs pulled it up over the new baby who was in the middle! Thank god my new mom spidey senses activated. With two blankets, you could make sort of a gorge between the two and not worry so much about covering baby. Eventually we swapped for two until she was old enough to start taking our covers, now we all share one πŸ˜‰

      1 agrees
  4. My husband snores. I rely on earplugs every night. I like the Hearos Xtreme. We have a (now) four month old and when she was born I was worried I was going to have to give up the earplugs and lose all the sleep. But no, Mommy Sense kicks in and I hear her baby cries through the plugs. I second the idea of getting a king size bed and separate blankets. We have that too. So much better when you don't have to fight for covers. Good luck!

    • I have the same troubles and nothing is really effective for us. I wear headphones and listen to music, but that only helps so much. I'm a light sleeper, partner is a heavy sleeper who snores/breathes loudly, loves to snuggle as close as possible. We've tried nose sprays, special pillows, nose strips, me wearing headphones or earplugs, and one of us moving to the couch. I admit it's mostly me, and is effected terribly by hormones. If I manage to fall asleep first it's not so bad. But his schedule is not consistent and some days he's asleep hours before me to get up early for work.

      Luckily our roommate is moving out soon, so we plan on turning his room into a spare guest room/office, complete with bed that is more comfy than our couch, and door that closes to keep dogs and cats out, so one of us can get some goddammed sleep.

      Interested in hearing what other people have to say! It's a frustrating predicament to be sure. I need all the help I can get.

    • If you haven't yet and have the means to do so, I highly recommend that snorers see a sleep specialist. My husband has always been a loud snorer, which became intolerable once I got pregnant and my sleep style went from medium to light. Turns out, his snoring is related to moderate sleep apnea, and his brand new CPAP quiets the snoring, being virtually silent itself while he's wearing it, and makes sure he keeps breathing all night. We had to pony up for the good health insurance to get it covered, but it was well worth it.

      7 agree
      • YES! My husband just got his CPAP this week and I can't believe what a difference it makes.

        3 agree
        • My ex uses a CPAP and when we were dating it took forever for me to get used to the noise it made. However, I just spent the night at his place a couple weeks ago and got to experience his newly upgraded CPAP machine. It is completely silent. I could not believe it! What a difference it made for me being able to fall asleep quickly!

    • I don't mean to start a tangent conversation, but what you mentioned above about your husband accidentally putting the covers over the new baby is why co-sleeping can be dangerous, especially for young infants and toddlers.

      1 agrees
  5. I realize that this will sound like an old fashioned "You'll get over it," but I don't mean it that way. You may find that sharing a bed regularity or constantly balances your sleep tendencies. My partner was a violent sleeper when we first got together. I woke up bruised for a while, but things did even out, and we have largely learned to accommodate each other. For my partner, having a bed-mate might have actually caused some of the sleep stress- instinctive defense, or something. Anyhow, just a wee anecdote. Best of luck, regardless!

    4 agree
    • This was also my experience. I'm a super light sleeper, and the hubs is a super heavy (and active!) sleeper, but it's never really been a problem for us. Sure, he'll occasionally wake me up with his sleeping antics, but it's more amusing to both of us than anything. I mean, if I was a heavy sleeper too, neither one of us would know about when he says hilarious things or sings video game music in his sleep! Since we've had our baby, it's actually been an advantage. He doesn't wake up when the baby wakes up so he's always well rested and can kick butt at his job. I'm always instantly up to attend to Young Sir's needs, but that's totally fine because I stay home with him. Who knows? Maybe it won't be as terrible as you think.

      1 agrees
    • Definitely. My husband was the light sleeper. Once I fall asleep I'm out but he would wake up to every twitch…and I have leg spasms at night and a bad back so I'm constantly adjusting. We changed our mattress to try to lessen my restlessness and then got our own comforters (which solved the cover stealing and the problem of his being a human sauna at night) and it lessened his awareness of my movements. It took a month or so but now he rarely wakes up because of me. πŸ™‚

  6. I have been known to move, kick, turn, talk, scream, sing, sit upright, etc. when I sleep — so I am definitely the heavy/active sleeper of the two of us.

    What I've found is letting him go to sleep first and my coming in after. He wakes up very briefly when I get into bed, but drifts right back. Everything else from me he's gotten used to, unless I scream bloody murder or talk VERY loudly when I'm actively dreaming.

    It's become a quirk of mine that has been the source of some stories and jokes between the two of us. (I now own more Batman themed things than I can deal with because I once sang the 60s Batman TV show theme for a couple minutes while asleep one.)

    In case any of you are wondering, no, I have no idea of any of it until he tells me, but my mother used to report back to me that I would move all night long and occasionally scream when I was very little. It's always been something I've done, but I do get a full, rested night's sleep.

  7. As a light sleeper I completely disagree with all the "you will get used to it" comments. My partner and I have been together for over ten years, he is a violent, tossing and turning sleeper, I am a very light sleeper. Honestly if I had my own way I would have my own bed. Sleep is important to me and to this day I always sleep better if my partner is not in the bed with me. I always get up later than him so I can catch up on extra, undisturbed sleep when he is not in the bed. However, my partner must share a bed, can't sleep without me there (not sleeping :P).

    Our compromise was an upgrade to a king size bed so I can move far away from him if I need and also a hard mattress. The hard mattress does not transfer as much movement to the other partner. We also have a long thin body pillow that I sometimes put in between us to keep us separated if he is having a particularly active night, my partner hates it but I hate getting punched in the face in the middle of the night… I think the next time we need a new mattress I will insist on getting separate single mattresses that can fit side by side so there is no movement transference at all. The other option is a boomerang pillow for the rough sleeper, it tends to help keep them contained in their space.

    9 agree
    • LAUREN!!! YOU MAY HAVE JUST SAVED MY MARRIAGE!!!!!!! LOL! GIRL, THANK YOU!!! THIS IS MY SITUATION TO THE LETTER BEEN MARRIED FOR 12YRS AND I WAS ALMOST IN TEARS TRYING TO FIGURE THIS OUT! GOT A NEW MATTRESS AND IT STILL DIDN'T HELP WITH FEELING THE MOTION TRANSFER OF MY MOVING HUSBAND. I SWEAR HE IS BUILDING SOMETHING OVER THERE AT NIGHT! LOL! YES, ALL CAPS ON THIS ONE! THANK YOU SO MUCH!! GOD BLESS!

  8. My partner & I don't really have this issue, but I will say that when we added a memory foam topper to our mattress I noticed a huge difference in how much we felt each other move around in bed. Might be something to consider! I also agree with the suggestions of separate blankets/duvets, and another place for you to sleep if it's a particularly bad night (whether that's a spare bedroom or just a reasonably comfy couch).

    1 agrees
    • Agreed! We got a memory foam topper and it definitely helps muffle movements. I have to get up absurdly early in the summer during field season at work, and we immediately noticed that the topper helps. Husband still hears my alarm when it goes off, but the topper allows him to stay mostly asleep because it prevents jostling as I climb out. He then gets back to sleep much more easily once I'm gone. So, woo for foam toppers!

  9. We had two twin beds pushed together with a memory foam topper, but we discovered when researching a new bed that two twins don't make a king: twins are about 7" shorter than a standard king, which explains why our sheets always fit so poorly. Now we have a full-on memory foam bed, with a metal stand (no box spring), and it is very stable and doesn't transmit transmit much movement. Well under a thou US dollars for both. We also use separate blankets (for both temperature and blanket-hogging reasons). My partner moves a *lot*, and for a while was doing lots of kicking, so I ran a foam pool noodle under the bottom sheet to provide a boundary… that worked well, although it did make the bed look funny when it was made (solution: don't bother making the bed). I do still sleep with earplugs some nights. I would go for separate beds in a heartbeat, but it's not an option for the other party. I've learned to not be ashamed of naps. Anytime, anywhere. Except at work, they frown on it there.

    5 agree
  10. My partner and I just got a new mattress from Ikea- the response coils are individually wrapped and don't transfer motion. Hands down the best sleep we've ever gotten. I don't wake up when he gets up, he doesn't wake up when I come to bed, and neither of us feel the cat until she's standing on our chests

    1 agrees
  11. As a light sleeper, I never felt rested with my partner in bed for years. Everything bugged me–I couldn't even let him read in bed while I was trying to fall asleep, because the sound of turning pages would drive me nuts.

    …And then I discovered ear plugs and sleep masks. Seriously, these things cost a combined $15 on Amazon and have changed my life. Where were these things in college? Why does no one tell you about them? Hear me now: Ear plugs are a thing and you can wear them to bed every night and yes, they're perfectly safe.

    Like some other folks here, it has also helped for us to stagger our schedules. I come in to bed a good 3-4 hours before he does (because now I'm a journalist and have to be up crazy early) and most nights I don't even notice him getting in bed.

  12. No great ideas but sympathy. My husband snores (and refuses to get checked) and keeps me awake. Luckily he's a night owl, so if I get to bed at my normal time AND I'm well asleep I'm usually fine. If I wake up once he's there, and snoring, or flailing around, I'm sort of out of luck. Even with earplugs and white noise. But we keep a futon made up to sleep in. That does help, because it is less stressful and less energy if you know there is somewhere else to sleep. The two single beds pushed together sounds like a good idea, because at least it would cut down on the movement issue.

  13. My grandparents had to have separate beds because my grandfather had part of his head blown off in WWI and kicked uncontrollably at times. My grandmother did not like being woken up by his kicks, nor did she like the bruises on her legs. If your partner is a less violent sleeper than my grandfather, I can definitely recommend a king-size bed. If he is a very active sleeper, a body pillow between you sounds like a good precaution.

  14. I'm the 'could sleep through a hurricane' one, while my partner wakes up if the dog stretches out on the floor with a mild groan. The best we've come up with so far is sleep head phones (he likes listening to ASMR videos) and I try to go to sleep first since I tend to be a bit noisy and our apartment is small.

    We also have an 'emergency plan' as I've seen in a few comments above. In the event I don't want to wake him or I'm restless sleeping and he can't fall asleep due to constant movement, the couch is quite comfortable.

  15. I have a mix of all the issues and some of the solutions. Currently in our queen size bed:

    -A tiny human who thinks the queen size bed should be all hers.
    -2 cats who could give a damn less, the pillows are obvs there for their sleeping enjoyment only.
    -1 adult male human who hates being touched in his sleep, who snore AND sleep talks.
    -and sad little me who typically gets an 1/8 of the bed and is a super light sleeper.

    Solutions:

    -The little's crib is from Ikea and easy to take apart. We left off one side, pointed to open side to our bed and wedged her bed between the wall and ours. Ghetto co-sleeper. When she's super out of control with the bed hogging we just shove her over into "her bed" πŸ˜‰
    -always a fan going. It somewhat drowns out the man otherwise known as my sleep nemesis.
    -I took the time and effort to figure out exactly what kind of sleeper I am and exactly how much sleep I really need. Turns out I could never get a full night's sleep of 8+ hours because I don't need it! I'm a higher functioning human on 5-6 which is within the norm for my sleep style and patterns.

    All in all, it just takes work but the biggest thing I can say is don't add pressure before you even start. A lot of people said to give yourselves time to adjust and I THIS with them most heartily.

    2 agree
  16. Extremely light sleeper with a snorer here. I make him go to sleep at least 20 minutes after me, when possible. I sleep with my headphones and my iPod every night.

    First, I unwind with a guided meditation. Then, I listen to either music mixed with white noise (from the appropriately-named White Noise app), or the Sleep With Me podcast (http://sleepwithmepodcast.com). That podcast is like magic. Seriously. πŸ™‚

    1 agrees
  17. My husband and I have been sleeping in separate rooms for about 8 months now. It obviously hasn't affected our intimacy, since I am now 20 weeks pregnant (after trying for nearly 5 years). It started one night after our roommate moved out, and we kinda just went with it. We both sleep much better, which in turn had made our relationship better. I am *generally* a much heavily sleeper (I slept through my father-in-law nailing down a cover to our solid oak stairs over the course of several hours) but I can't sleep if he is snoring. I also can't stand ear plugs, fans/white noise machines, or anything on my face. He will wake up at every little movement, and I sleep like an eggbeater. I once woke up having rolled on top on him, and he is a larger guy! We plan on keeping the arrangement once our little monster gets earthside. Me and the baby in one bed, him and our big oaf of a dog in the other. Definitely not everyone's thing, but it works for us.

    I didn't share this as advice, since I know you are trying to avoid it. I just thought it may be helpful to see separate beds don't have to mean a loss of intimacy or a strain on your relationship in case you end up there as a last resort. I hope you find something that works for you!

    3 agree
    • I would recommend getting a basinet or small crib for your soon-to-be child since you stated this: "I sleep like an eggbeater. I once woke up having rolled on top on him, and he is a larger guy! We plan on keeping the arrangement once our little monster gets earthside. Me and the baby in one bed, him and our big oaf of a dog in the other." That way, there is no chance of having that happen with the baby!

      2 agree
    • My husband and I have also been sleeping in seperate bedrooms, and it worked WONDERS for us. Neither of us were getting any sleep (he's a very violent sleeper, and I have the bruises and bad back to prove it!) and one night he just went to the spare room to sleep, and we both finally got a decent night's rest after 3 years! And I agree, it doesn't affect our intimacy at all, as I'm 10 weeks pregnant! πŸ™‚ It's not for everyone, but it works for us, and we're both getting good sleep and it makes us happier individuals all together.

  18. My partner and I use the app "Soothing Sounds" – I am sensitive to snoring and noises outside, but once I'm asleep that's it – and my partner is light sleeper and sensitive to my movements while I'm sleeping; but falls asleep so quickly! It's like the opposite thing in each person haha! BUT this is app is the bomb, whenever we go away we use it, and sometimes even when the weather is bad, or just having a bad night. There is a free version, but we went and bought it because we loved it so much! On the paid version you can even combine the different sounds to make your own custom track. It's the bomb!

  19. There's a company called AcousticSheep that makes sleep headphones. I've got the wireless bluetooth ones because my housemates are noisy as hell and we only have single glazing. Playing white noise over them (don't use the official app, it's rubbish) helps me sleep SO much better. Something like that might work for you?

  20. After 3 years of a similar situation, I just had a sleep study done (last night) to see if my light sleeping is a sign of something not operating at optimum levels (or correctly) and can be fixed. And then we hope to get him in there, to correct the snoring. πŸ™‚
    I can tell you from experience that it took time and patience for us both. Basically, when he starts snoring, I shove him lightly and he wakes up enough to turn over and stop. He doesn't thrash much, but we've minimized all other distractions (blackout curtains on the bedroom windows, no noisemakers in the room- white noise keeps me awake, I read before bed to get fully relaxed and try to fall asleep before he comes to bed, etc.). It might just take the time to train him to adjust his sleeping behaviors, and create an environment that supports max sleep for you. Good luck!

  21. Along with the other mattress recommendations, I'd check out the Sleep Number beds. My husband and I splurged on one years ago and continue to love it. There are no springs, so motion transfer is reduced a lot, and letting each of us choose our firmness helps us both sleep more comfortably (and therefore soundly). I can definitely feel the difference when I sleep on a normal innerspring mattress now.

    The beds are more expensive than many mattresses, but they have a long warranty and should last longer than a spring mattress. We really like knowing that our bed's firmness can change with us as our bodies change (injuries, pregnancy, or other things that might cause a change in sleep preferences).

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