As many as 30-40 per cent of couples sleep in different beds, Director of Ryerson’s Sleep and Depression Laboratory Colleen Carney told CBC. Basing her conclusions on her clinics observations of sleep quality, she said the practice, perceived by many as taboo, can actually improve relationships.
“People will say they sleep better [together], but when we actually monitor their brains we see that their brain is not getting into deeper stages of sleep because they’re continuously being woken up by movement or sound,” she says. “It creates a lot of problems.”
Sometimes referred to as sleep divorce, Carney added that there was a need to eliminate the misconceptions of people who choose to sleep apart.
“I think the idea of sleep divorce is an unfair term. People can have very good and satisfying relationships sleeping apart. Some people might be headed to divorce and then they actually sleep apart and find this new way to connect,” she added.
Overcoming the stigma
Risa and Lance Lee from Halifax, have slept in separate quarters for nearly 14 years. “I would end up on the floors a lot of nights trying not to wake him up,” Risa said about her experience with restlessness during pregnancy. “That seemed sort of ridiculous.”
Lance, meanwhile, said he would attempt to stay still, lying awake in a frozen state, hoping to allow Risa a good night’s sleep. “It was more agitation than anything else,” said Risa. “I think it just created tension.”
So Risa made the suggestion to sleep apart and Lance welcomed the idea. Their only challenge, they said, was overcoming the social stigma - the feeling that they were doing something wrong.
The choice that she and Lance made has not impacted the closeness of their relationship, Risa said. “If we were on our way to divorce, we’ve been on our way to divorce for 15 years now.”