Why you should care
Because as much as you love your spouse, you love sleep just a little more.
My husband, Josh, and I shared a bathroom before we ever shared a bed. Our individual bedrooms were separated by a full bath with a door on either side, like the Brady Bunch kids’. I always made sure to lock his side or risk his busting in on me. Which, when it did occasionally happen, was always super embarrassing — especially because we weren’t a couple; we were roommates.
A month or so after I moved in, though, the lines blurred, and we became kind of a couple. If sneaking around while your third roommate was asleep downstairs can be considered coupledom, that is. On a typical weeknight, we’d all eat burritos in the living room, watch a ball game or The Bachelor, and bid one another good night. Then, while we brushed our teeth, Josh and I would jokingly debate, his bed or mine?
But when it was time to actually sleep, we headed back to our respective bunks. For several reasons: 1) We weren’t ready to “out” ourselves to our third roommate; 2) Sleeping together is arguably more intimate than, you know, sleeping together; and 3) I knew we’d both sleep better.
Back in the old days, having separate sleeping quarters was a sign of affluence.
Now, seven years later, we’re married, with two little kids, and typically operate on six or seven always-interrupted hours of shuteye. I realize that I’m one of the lucky ones: My husband doesn’t snore. (Unlike my dad, who still rocks the house like Fred Flintstone and has managed to remain married for 35 years.)
But Josh is a light sleeper. A fly buzzes in his ear, a raccoon rustles outside, a raindrop freaking falls, and he wakes up — and shoots up, ready to fight the imaginary robber. And then, of course, because I’m right next to him, I wake up, too. Josh would argue that I’m the culprit — the reason he can’t sleep — but, oh, we don’t need to get into why and all that here.
The point is, sometimes, as much as I like to spoon, I kind of miss our old Brady Bunch setup. Maybe we were on to something. I know this isn’t a sexy thing to say, but what’s so bad about separate beds?
This topic came up (again) with friends recently, over a late-night feast of MSG-saturated Chinese food, which doesn’t do wonders for a good night sleep, either, but that’s beside the point.
“Who invented this one-bed system?” complained my friend Lisa, who’s been sharing a queen with her 6-foot 4-inch husband for 14 sleepless years. “It so clearly doesn’t work.” Earplugs don’t help either, she said. But separate rooms would. “Space is an issue, though. Bunk beds?”
Indeed, back in the old days, having separate sleeping quarters was a sign of affluence, and before marriage became a union based on love, it made sense.
George, who grew up in Grenada, chimed in. “My grandparents always had their own rooms, and they were happy,” he said. “I’d fall asleep listening to them talking from their separate beds. It’s one of my favorite childhood memories.”
We’ve all heard stories like these. About crazy, happy couples — civilians and celebs — who have separate beds (Ernie and Bert), separate bedrooms (Brad and Angelina), even separate houses (Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton). It’s called Living Apart Together (L.A.T.), and it’s a real thing. But for the majority of us in boring, long-term relationships, having two bedrooms still seems totally taboo. Tell your friends you’ve moved upstairs, and their next question is, “When’s the divorce?”
And yet, still, more couples than ever are quietly sleeping apart — 30 to 40 percent of couples worldwide in fact, according to Colleen Carney of Ryerson’s Sleep and Depression Laboratory in Toronto. And, most likely, they’re sleeping soundly.
It’s estimated that 60 percent of new homes are now built with dual master bedrooms.
Couples suffer up to 50 percent more disturbances when sleeping next to someone than when sleeping alone, according to Dr. Neil Stanley, a British sleep specialist and separate-bed evangelist. America’s National Association of Home Builders says it’s likely that 60 percent of new homes are now built with dual master bedrooms.
But the elephant in the bedroom(s) remains: Many of us think separate beds equal a sorry sex life. Not so, says British writer Rachel Rounds. “As I listened to Tom’s footsteps in the hallway,” she writes in the Daily Mail, ”I smiled mischievously as I recalled our wonderful ‘date’ in his bedroom yesterday evening, which ended with a kiss goodnight before I tiptoed back to my own boudoir.”
I know, sounds like a bad novel by Danielle Steel. But, hmm, also a little like our old, run-down, three-bedroom rental, which happened to be just a few blocks from Steel’s place.