February 27, 2011 in Features

Partner’s sleep habits prevent 1 in 3 from getting a good night’s rest

But there are plenty of solutions
Colleen Newvine Tebeau Associated Press
 
On the Web

Leggett & Platt: www.lpcpg.com/products/foundations/

Sona Pillow: www.sonapillow.com

National Sleep Foundation: www.sleepfoundation.org/

Better Sleep Council’s sleep tips on YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fk8iajREfiE

When we were newlyweds, my husband and I heard a lot of mildly naughty jokes about sleeping together.

But for us, sleeping together – that is, actual sleeping – was no laughing matter.

John snored, I twitched. He stayed up late, I got up early. He liked a cold room with the blankets untucked, I wanted the blankets tucked in to keep me warm.

Neither of us was getting much good rest.

We were not alone: Lots of couples have sleep habits that keep each other awake.

The Better Sleep Council, funded by the mattress industry, surveyed 1,000 Americans in 2007 and found 1 in 3 reporting that their partner’s sleep habits affected their own sleep.

But, say designers and therapists, there are plenty of creative solutions to such problems.

“I’m a hopeless romantic,” said Beverly Hills, Calif., designer Christopher Grubb, who likes helping clients enjoy sleeping in the same room.

Snoring, he says, is a common problem among his clients. One found relief with an anti-snoring pillow from Sona, one of several companies that offer pillows designed to help prevent snoring by keeping the sleeper’s airway open.

Grubb also suggests sheets with a high thread count to maximize comfort, a mid-weight comforter to balance different temperature preferences, and beds that cater to partners’ different needs.

Sometimes, that can mean two mattresses, side by side. For example, Leggett & Platt offers a bed base called the Prodigy.

Imagine two hospital beds side by side, each of which can be raised and lowered independently, plus a massage feature that can be used as a silent alarm in the morning. Each partner has a separate mattress and can choose its firmness.

Going to this extra effort is worth it, says Tina B. Tessina, a psychotherapist who blogs as Dr. Romance and is the author of “Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage” (Adams Media, 2008).

“Sleeping apart can contribute to the disconnect that plagues many relationships. It just makes it easier to avoid each other, when what’s really needed is connection and contact,” Tessina said.

Barbara Bartlein, a clinical psychotherapist in Milwaukee and author of “75 Things To Improve Your Marriage Without Your Spouse Even Knowing” (Trade Paper Press, 2010), says that sleep is important but so is the connection from sleeping together.

“The key is you must also take the time for physical closeness and intimacy,” she says. “Many couples start the night together and then move apart if one person is moving, snoring, etc.

“One of the advantages of sleeping together is you have the opportunity for bedroom talk. This is the especially intimate talk that couples do in the dark that no one else ever hears.”

Don’t be afraid of unusual solutions if they work for you.

Leta Hamilton gets her togetherness by sleeping in a king-size bed with her infant and toddler while her husband sleeps on the floor.

Hamilton, host of the Internet radio show “The Way of the Toddler Hour,” says her husband, James, prefers sleeping on hard surfaces and likes sleeping by himself. Their arrangement keeps him in the same room with the rest of the family.

“We like the time we spend together as a family before going to bed. It’s special,” say Hamilton, of Sammamish, Wash. “All of this may sound very weird, but every night I lay in bed and think how lucky I am.”

Little things like blankets and alarm clocks also can make a difference.

Lissa Coffey, lifestyle spokesperson for the Better Sleep Council, says she and her husband prefer different temperatures and sleep schedules.

She has a single electric blanket on her side of the bed so she can be toasty warm, while he prefers to sleep cooler. Coffey sleeps later, so her husband uses a soothing alarm that doesn’t disturb her in the morning.

What worked for me and my husband?

First we both sought help from the University of Michigan Sleep Disorders Clinic.

Doctors found John’s snoring wasn’t just bothering me; it was keeping him from getting quality sleep. So they fitted him with a mouthpiece to open his throat.

My study confirmed what John already knew: I wiggled dozens of times an hour all night long. The doctors offered medication also used to prevent seizures, but since my movement wasn’t harming my sleep, we opted for a nonmedical solution.

We put two twin mattresses on a king-size frame with a tiny space between them. We get those pillow talk moments, and I can twitch all night without disturbing hubby’s sleep.

Which might be why these restless newlyweds have made it to 10 years of marriage.

© Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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