My partner and I stopped sharing a bed after having kids: why I love sleeping alone

Guest post by Lauren

Offbeat Home recently ran a post about sleeping separately due to insomnia — this is a different perspective on couples having separate rooms.

Bed 06
By: Massimo PeruffoCC BY 2.0
It started six years ago when I was pregnant with my first baby. In early pregnancy, I suffered from severe nausea and morning sickness, which was made worse by anything that smelled like, you know, anything. And unfortunately, my husband Brian started to smell like something: his body exuded a pungent funk so repellent that I had to hold my breath when I kissed him for many months. Sleeping in the same room became akin to torture, so I took to the guest bed, dousing the pillow with lavender essential oils for months until the nausea faded.

Our daughter Robin joined us in bed after her birth and for awhile we were a happily co-sleeping trio. I believe in co-sleeping to my core: it just makes intrinsic sense to me that babies would want to snuggle their mamas. And before pregnancy, co-sleeping was a huge part of the intimacy we shared as husband and wife: we spent at least an hour “cozing” in the morning before we got up. Brian and I have always been a very snuggly couple. Why wouldn’t we all want to sleep together? Forever and ever?

As a kid, I often required company to relax at night, which was a time of high anxiety for me. I remember being eight and sneaking into my sister’s room during thunderstorms or after a bad dream. Company helped me relax, even if it was the company of my younger sis. As a teen, I sometimes slept on the sofa in my parents’ room for the same reason. I get why humans want to share beds. I wouldn’t deny that to anyone in my family — as long as we’re all sleeping well.

When our second daughter Holly was born, the king-sized bed that had once felt fairly roomy became impossibly cramped. By then, Robin was a toddler who demanded half the bed to herself and had the sharpest little feet imaginable. She also still nursed at night, and rolling back and forth between two kids all night sounded like a form of torture to me. Holly and I retreated to the guest bedroom again, and I started to fall in love with this quiet retreat. Holly was a much nicer bed friend than Robin had been (Robin simply likes her own space, we came to learn, and took to sleeping in her own bed pretty well once we moved and set up a bedroom for her). Snuggling up with my warm, sweet newborn in a dark, quiet room was a small antidote to the mounting stress in my life at that time.

At that time, I felt pulled in all directions trying to meet the competing needs of my baby, toddler, husband, students, and graduate career. Focusing solely on the needs of my infant, which were pure and completely understandable (unlike the mercurial and confusing needs of, say, a two-year-old!), was sweet relief. Brian and Robin shared the king-sized bed, and with more wiggle room (and her Dada), they rested better, too. (Or at least, no worse.) And we just stayed that way.

We bought our beautiful country home when the girls were three and one, and about six months after we moved we finally had the money and wherewithal to set up a bedroom just for them. As with any transition, it was a rocky start, but pretty soon they were sleeping in their own beds for most of the night, every night. Each night we have “tub time for tooter tots,” read stories, brush hair and teeth, and go potty. Brian reads in the big chair and I snuggle Holly until the girls fall asleep.

Our house is two-story, and the master bedroom is on the first floor. The girls’ room is upstairs, and so is the guest bedroom — which the girls call “Mommy’s room.” And which I should call “my room.” Because I sleep in there, alone.

Technically, we could set up a baby monitor in their room, and I could go to bed with Brian, and head upstairs if and only if needed. And now that Holly sleeps through the night at least some nights, that would be the logical thing to do, right? I mean, why wouldn’t I leap back into bed with my estranged husband? Right?

Except. OK.

I love my bed.

I love getting into my big bed with the extra soft blanket and lying in the exact position I want. I love that I can stick my legs out. I love how quiet it is in my bed. I love that I can read with a flashlight. I love that I can look out my window for a while, at the stars over our tiny town, the dogs in my neighbors’ backyards. No one’s needs to meet but my own. That tranquility at the end of the day… I don’t want to give it up.

Brian asked if I thought we’d ever share a bed again. First, I said he had to stop snoring. Then I said, probably, someday. I think raising young kids has changed my own needs. As they move out of the young age of constant neediness — as they sleep more independently, as Holly gets ready to fully wean from nursing — I’m more aware of my own needs, of my own self as mattering in my family. And right now, I need solo time at the end of the day. I need to sleep alone. I want to sleep alone.

Behind every conversation about sleeping arrangements is a question about sex. People might ask, “OMGWFTBBQ AREN’T YOU RUINING YOUR MARRIAGE??!!!!” And the answer is… I don’t know, maybe? A lot of couples sleep apart, and studies are conflicting as to how much more (or less) sex you have if you sleep apart. Right now, in our life, good sleep takes precedent over everything, including sex, although we do OK.

Let me put it this way: we have about as much sex now as we ever did when we shared a bed. And we have more sex now than we did for quite a while when we shared a bed. I think sex has more to do with the dynamics in our relationship at any given moment than where we happen to place our bodies at night, to sleep. If things are good, if we’re well rested, if we want to? We find a way to make it happen. If we’re stressed, tired, angry, distracted? We won’t. Even if we spend 10 hours less than a foot away from each other. Honestly, bed-sharing with my snoring, hard-to-wake husband might inspire more resentment between us, more sleep-deprived fantasies of pillow smothering. I don’t think sharing a bed would save a failing marriage, nor do I think separate beds would destroy a good one. But what do I know? I’ve only been married for 9 years.

I don’t think it will be like this forever. If having kids has taught me anything, it’s that the way things are today is not how they will be forever. I love my husband and I’m sure that with some Breathe Right strips and two increasingly independent daughters, snuggling at night will reemerge as a way we stay connected. But for now? This queen-sized bed is mine all mine.

Comments on My partner and I stopped sharing a bed after having kids: why I love sleeping alone

  1. I lived a similar experience and I still love when I end up with the bed to myself but we did eventually come back to sharing a bed again once our youngest was weaned and sleeping through the night. Our sex life wasn’t great during the intense breastfeeding and co-sleeping years but I agree that it had more to do with the dynamics of the relationship than where we slept. Now, we share a bed, we enjoy cuddles and sex, and the kids are welcome to come and crawl in the bed in the morning if they like. My two kiddos do end up sleeping in the same bed occasionally and I happily let them since it is nice to share sleep if everyone is up for it and there is enough room…

  2. Oh, if I only I could get my partner to agree to this. When I watch 50’s television, I become jealous of the two side-by-side twin beds. I move a lot when I sleep and if anything gets in my way, I wake up. Seperate beds is a dream of mine.

  3. I wish we had the room some nights, especially right after I have been elbowed in the throat by my Honey during a nightmare. Having a SigOt who has PTSD and a TBI means sometimes sleeping in odd positions so you don’t wake them/startle them or just not sleeping when they have a bad night.

  4. Ugh. So so so jealous. I share a queen bed with my giant 6’5″ husband, our 9 month old daughter (who is still breast feeding), an 85 lb. black lab & a 45 lb. mutt who loves to sleep on my legs. I would kill for my own bed.

    • My husband and I are pretty much the same size (5’7″, slenderish) sharing a queen sized bed….but yeah, it’s the dog that wrecks it. She’s only a little beagle, bu she sure knows how to take up space. That, and my cat likes to sleep curled up against my knees…and you know how it is with cats: once they settle, for some reason you feel obligated to NOT disturb them.

      • I trained my cat when she was young to sleep beside my pillow, best training ever. Now that is the only place she will sleep when we are in the bed. She never gets kicked in the night and the only way she gets in my way is sometimes she puts her back feet on my back if she curls around the pillow and I am sleeping on my side. Our other cat doesn’t share sleeping space so he will not get on the bed if we are in it.

  5. I can relate! With 5 month old twins who only give me limited sleep, I choose the couch most nights, rather than deal with possibly getting a few snuggles and maybe some sleep with my snoring (also hard-to-wake) husband. I feel that no matter where I sleep, if I wake up rested, then I wake up non-resentful of my husband and babes, and able to take better care of all of them.
    We are still very cuddly, and our sex life hasn’t missed a beat. I think doing what is best to make sure Mommy gets her rest, is the way to go for sure!

  6. This is off-topic, but your husband may want to ask his doctor about sleep apnea. Snoring and being hard to wake can be early signs, and if left untreated it can end up pretty dangerous.

  7. Oh, I so miss having my own bed. When my kid was born, we were fully intending to co-sleep. Who wouldn’t want to cuddle with their newborn? It turned out the newborn didn’t want to cuddle with us! Over the course of the first year we discovered that all 3 of us slept better alone. (but now we’re in a new house with less bedrooms, so I’m back with my partner in bed) My daughter is now 3. She recently went through a period of resisting going to bed and I discussed it with her. She didn’t want to sleep alone, but she also didn’t want to sleep with us. Really, she just wanted to stay up forever. I had serious guilt for not co-sleeping for awhile, but over time it was just so obvious that sleeping apart worked better for everyone. I think it’s important for potential co-sleepers to realize that babies are born with preferences, and that everyone’s needs are important.

  8. So. Jealous.

    My husband would be crushed if I didn’t want to sleep in the same bed, but when he travels it is soooo nice to stretch out and sleep alone!

    • Ditto this. My husband would probably feel hurt if I expressed a desire to sleep alone, but I definitely relish it with he gets called out at night and I get the whole bed to myself. I’ve already given up a lot to share a bed with him: he would always untuck the sheets and blankets from the bottom of the bed because he didn’t like having his feet squashed (?), so as a result we’d always get tangled up in the top sheet, and the blankets would get all mangled. So, I invested in a duvet and duvet cover so that we could forgo the top sheet, and for two years now I’ve just had to deal with blankets that go every which way because they’re not tucked in. *heavy sigh* AND he likes to sleep with a fleece blanket UNDER the duvet, a fleece blanket with a weird fringe on it that tends to startle me out of sleep if I happen to touch it. Sooooo….yeah, sleeping alone is certainly a delight.

  9. Oh man, if we had the space and my husband could be convinced, I’d be in heaven having my own bed. We only have a double, and are currently sharing it with our 12-week-old. My husband is also 6’3, the worst snorer (is that a word?) on the planet, and impossible to wake up. Ever. He sleeps through our older childrens’ nightmares, doesn’t notice when the baby pukes all over me, and hogs all the blankets. He also seems to have a talent for breathing on me when he sleeps (I’m insane and hate people breathing on me. I don’t need to smell your recycled air, thank you!) He thinks this is nuts and I swear, purposely rolls over just to breathe on me the minute I’ve finally fallen asleep. What with our 2 preschoolers’ frequent wake-ups during the night and a newborn, I find myself definately resenting the fact that he ends up keeping me awake as much as they do! I need a bigger bed…

    • Resentment was a problem for me, too. I remember feeling like I could stab him with my glaring when I was up at night with a baby and he was snoring away. I think reducing homicidal tendencies among spouses is a definite “pro” to solo sleep :).

  10. We recently got a new bed. We were intending to toss the old bed, but my husband had the ingenious idea to keep the old bed for guests. Since we made that decision, we’ve been sleeping in separate beds ever since due to illnesses, sleeplessness, sick babies, general well being, and it’s amazing! Sure, we do sleep in the same bed every once in a while, and that makes it even more special.

  11. I sleep separately from my BF almost every night and if I don’t start in the office in the double bed, I end up in there because I am the LIGHTEST sleeper on the planet and he usually wakes me when he comes to bed.

    For awhile I was resenting not sleeping in bed with him. Occasionally it happens and I make it through the night with him, but I’m perfectly ok with sleeping in my old bed with my cats. That way we both get good sleep and life is good. Oh and our sex life hasn’t suffered at all. 😉

  12. We ended up in seperate beds due to my partner having a shoulder injury which was followed by my first trimester and is ongoing. I miss the cuddles some nights but never the snoring and getting the extra sleep I need makes me nicer to live with which makes us all happier. Whatever works for you guys is the way to go.

  13. Keeping separate beds is the best thing that ever happened to my marriage, and I tell everyone who’ll listen. I didn’t realise it until I started bed-sharing with my eldest, but I really sleep much better without a chain-saw snoring, tv-watching husband next to me.

    I also enjoy keeping our own personal spaces- our bedrooms.

    Now if only I could make this baby grow up a bit faster, I’d finally get a bed to myself.

    I have no idea why some think this is a reflection of our relationship (other than its ‘eff-conventions’! nature), or that we don’t have sex (more creative sex in the shower or rec-room? yes please… or either one of the bedroom for that matter), but like I said, it’s the best thing that ever happened to my marriage… Sleep is so important.

  14. i was a little freaked out when i first kind of “moved out” of our bedroom and into our new baby’s room. it was the only way my partner could get some sleep, then get up and go to work. but i loved it, too, sleeping with baby or right next to his crib.

    i loved the firm mattress, the low-to-the-floor bed. i loved being away from the snoring. i still sleep in there occasionally when my back is acting up, though it is harder for my son to get a good night’s sleep when i’m with him in his room.

    i fantasize about having my own sleeping room now. i read a lot about sleep because i have always slept poorly and had insomnia. what if i could actually DO all the stuff they recommend? it’d take my own room! this article is inspiring.

  15. When my daughter was still co-sleeping my husband would often sleep in our son’s room (he has bunk beds so my husband had the bottom bunk). He slept better in a twin by himself than he did in a king with baby and me. Even though my daughter sleeps in her own bed most nights, my husband still occasionally sleeps in my son’s room and we both agree that we sleep better that way. I move a lot in my sleep and it drives my husband nuts and he hogs the blankets. Separate beds sometimes means better sleep which means we are both well-rested, happier, and healthier! And as far as sex goes… I think it may actually improve our sex life because we’re not so exhausted, and it sort of makes us emphasize the time before we go to sleep as “together” time, not to be taken for granted.

  16. Right now that seems like heaven – not sleeping with your SO. But I think for me, that’s because we sleep in a twin together. Yeah, I know. It’s not ideal, but we’re long distance most times so it’s only temporary.

  17. My husband has been falling asleep in our family room, and I am loving having the bed to myself! Some nights I wish he would just stay down there. He’s a blanket thief and an alarm clock snoozer. Plus, I have very wakeful sleep during the first trimester of pregnancy, and a young toddler who wakes at least once a night to breastfeed, so the extra distraction of sharing a bed is nice to skip right now.

  18. I totally want to sleep alone right now! Except I want my toddler next to me in his crib. I love my husband, I just want to sleep well and enjoy my nighttime space. I want to wake up in the morning and journal for a bit. I don’t think I’ll go through with it but totally want my own bedroom!

  19. Hmmm we are seeking out independent time in the evening maybe sperate sleep would help. We’ll see what happens with 2.0. I definitely won’t be taking the guest bed out of that room now.

  20. I totally identify. I have an 8 yr old son, a 5 month old son, and a 43 yr old snoring man. We bought a king bed so that we could sleep better but most nights the snoring man heads to the couch. (I love the comment about the snoring making you want to put a pillow over the face! Glad to know that my midnight baby fogged brain wasn’t too off the mark for having the same thoughts!! Hilarious.) The baby ends up in bed with me most nights anyway. Also I am a big snuggler but the man isn’t so we are at odds when attempting to cosleep as a couple. It is getting bettter slowly but we all like our space to sprawl out or to snuggle as needed.We are seriously considering buying a four bedroom house so that we can all have our space when we need it! I think that whatever makes your house a cohesive happy unit is what needs to happen. it is different for every family.

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