An estimated 60% of us share a bed with someone else. It’s considered as being totally normal. But is it time to reconsider this ‘norm’ for the sake of our own health? Not to mention our partners? Scientific research says maybe we should.
Sleep studies that measure brain-wave activity or body movement, have shown that sharing a bed results in worse sleep quality compared to sleeping alone. More specifically, dyadic sleepers experience less REM sleep and increased physical activity during the night, compared to those who sleep alone.
Despite evidence hinting at the potential harm to sleep quality, participants generally report being more satisfied with their sleep when sleeping together with their partner rather than alone.
So how can we explain such divergence between self-reported evidence and the lab results? Researchers at the University of Utah suggest that in order to answer this question we need to understand the relationship between partners.
In 2008 Lisa Diamond and colleagues investigated what happens when romantic partners are temporarily separated. They found that some individuals who undergo ‘travel-related separations’ showed increased attachment anxiety.
Hence one possible reason that you sleep better with your partner is that your attachment leads to feelings of anxiety when you are apart.
Overall then, while dyadic sleep appears to decrease sleep quality, (using objective sleep measurements), separation from your partner actually exacerbates sleep problems because of the effects of attachment anxiety.
Syncing with your partner
One study found that similarity in sleep-wake rhythms can predict the strength of a couple’s relationship. Couple’s whose sleep-wake preferences were “mismatched” were found to have worse sleep quality that those who had more similar sleeping patterns. In other words, couples who naturally wake up and go to bed at similar times have been found to be more satisfied in their relationship.
So there we have it. To have the optimum sleep, it’s possible that nothing beats that of the bachelors life. But if you are planning on moving in with your partner, it might be worth finding out about when they plan on getting up in the morning.