Is it time for a 'sleep divorce'? This NHS doctor thinks so

·3-min read
Is getting a 'sleep divorce' the key to a healthy relationship? (Getty)
Is getting a 'sleep divorce' the key to a healthy relationship? (Getty)

When you share a bed with a problem sleeper - whether they snore, kick, talk, or hinder a good night’s rest in any other way - your mood and energy levels can plummet.

The solution? Get a sleep divorce.

Read more: How to improve your sleep schedule as we return to early morning commutes

“You should always sleep alone,” NHS surgical doctor, Dr Karan Rajan says in his now-viral TikTok video. “If the other person moves around in their sleep or snores, that will stop you from getting into the deep stages of sleep your body needs to recharge, affecting sleep quality.

“Not everyone shares the same sleep cycles, so forcing two people to share a bedtime will leave one or both chronically sleep deprived. One of the triggers you need to fall asleep is a drop in core body temperature. Sharing a bed with someone increases body heat so it will take longer to fall asleep.”

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The video has been ‘liked’ over 93,000 times on TikTok and it’s received more than 2,000 comments.

One TikTok user wrote: “Can we normalise this please! I love my husband but I HATE sharing a bed with him. He thinks I’m horrible for thinking this.”

Another user added: “My husband sleeps in his own room. He snores and likes the room warm. I love the room cold and quiet. Married 25 years.”

Read more: How to reduce stress, according to a counsellor

So what is a “sleep divorce” and how can it affect a relationship?

“Sleep divorce is the term used to describe two or more partners who co-sleep, making the choice to sleep in separate beds, and in some cases separate rooms,” Counselling Directory member and sex therapist, Rebecca Harrison tells Yahoo UK.

The benefits of this will differ depending on the partners; but the predominant reason partners promote sleep divorce is that it improves quality of sleep. 

“It's worth stating that the term 'sleep divorce' is loaded; the word 'divorce' seems to imply that sleeping apart is equivalent to ending the relationship, which it absolutely isn't. It also implies that there's a permanence to the arrangement - whereas you can sleep apart and sleep together whenever you like.”

Watch: How to improve your sleep

The way a sleep divorce affects a relationship is as unique as the relationship itself. Harrison notes that the main concern from critics is that sleeping in a separate bedroom from your partner can limit the chances for spontaneous sexual intimacy.

“If these forms of intimacy feature in your morning or night-time routine, then it's worth having a conversation about how you're going to maintain these forms of intimacy once you are sleeping apart,” she adds.

It’s also worth noting that a sleep divorce isn’t possible for everyone. A lot of people, especially those paying London house and rent prices, don’t have the luxury of having an extra room to sleep in and, while a couch is always an option, it’s certainly not a permanent solution.

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Before deciding to sleep apart, Harrison says it’s worth having a conversation with your partner about whether a sleep divorce would have a positive or negative impact on your relationship.

“As a sex therapist, I'd be interested in what could be behind the term 'problem sleeper'. Is there an aspect of the relationship that isn't working for someone? Is it a desire for more privacy or alone time? How does each partner feel about sexual and non-sexual intimacy in the relationship, and would sleeping apart have a positive or negative impact on this?,” Harrison adds.

“But if each partner wants to sleep apart, and that desire is coming from a healthy place, why not? If everyone in the relationship enthusiastically consents to the arrangement, then it's right for you. Sleep apart, sleep together, sleep wherever you like - it's your relationship.”

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