Love is in the air this month - but don’t let Hallmark or Hollywood fool you! The truth is, love comes in all forms - and today we’re talking about sustaining intimacy when you and your partner sleep in separate beds. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day and the romance it brings, we’re here to remind you that relationships look different for everyone, and there’s no ‘right’ way to share a life with someone. The perfect example - for us anyway - are the couples who sleep in separate beds.
Whether by choice or through circumstances (like not living together), sleeping in your own bed does not spell ‘relationship doom’. In fact, as a business that’s built on providing really good sleep, we’d argue any arrangement that leaves you well rested and relaxed is only going to improve your relationship.
For some, sleep is just not possible when there’s someone else in bed beside you; the disruptions are a recipe for restlessness and resentment, or your personal space is something you prefer not to give up. For others, it’s a choice driven by circumstance, such as different working hours to your partner, illness, living in different homes, co-sleeping, or high stress periods at work that cause disturbed sleep. Regardless of whether it’s a recurring or temporary decision, intimacy can - and often does - remain.
But if you’re considering the move, or struggling with fanning those romance flames, we have a few tips to keep those fires burning - just in time for Valentine’s Day…
Communicate your needs
Often the first step to addressing separate sleeping arrangements is to talk about it. Sure, it’s not the sexiest tip we could offer, but it is one of the most important.
Organise a time where you can sit down without any distractions, and chat about why you want to try sleeping separately. Whatever needs you’re not meeting - sleep, personal space, alone time to recharge - by communicating those upfront, you avoid any feelings of rejection. Because there’s nothing that puts the fire out faster than feeling unwanted in bed!
Behavioural and social scientist, Dr Wendy Troxel, admits, “There’s a lot of pressure around the meaning of the shared bed, but this is largely a socially constructed belief system, not science based.
“There isn’t a one-size-fits all sleeping strategy for all couples. That said, all couples should make sleep a priority — for both of them. Research shows that when you are well-rested, you’re a better communicator, happier, more empathic, more attractive, and funnier — all important attributes in developing and sustaining strong relationships.”
Once you and your loved one are clear on the ‘why’ behind your decision, and you’ve worked out how it will look for your lives, you can come up with a few ground rules to ensure you’re not slowly morphing into housemates.
Identify your ‘recharge’ style
If you’re an introvert, chances are you’ll feel more rested and energised after spending time alone. But if you’re more extroverted, feeling recharged often comes from being social. So how does this relate to sleeping separate from your partner?
Well, if you’re sleeping in different beds or don’t live in the same household, but you still want to maintain quality time together, it’s essential to work out how you each fill your cup.
Think about how you feel after a long day at work and what you need to feel relaxed. How does your partner fit into this equation? If you need that quiet time when you first get home, it may be a case of unwinding solo, before spending time together.
If you prefer social activities (and they’re aligned with your partner’s mood), then booking dinner or meeting for drinks after work can be a great way to spend quality time together and build intimacy outside of the bedroom.
The best part? If you plan your quality time around both of your needs, you’ll feel more present and connected when you’re together. And that’s exactly what we’re going for!
Plan a date night
Whether sleeping together or apart, date nights are a brilliant way to ensure your relationship gets the attention it deserves. Bonus, you get to do something fun with your partner outside the realms of work, chores, and children - if you have them. The key to a successful date night is planning. Just as you would in the early stages of a relationship, take time to plan something you’ll both enjoy.
It might lean more to one person’s interest each time, or you might be lucky and share some core interests together, and depending on your lives and schedules, it can be weekly, fortnightly, or even monthly at a stretch.
Once the date rolls around, don’t just show up like you would to help hang the washing. Get dressed up, arrive separately to your location, maybe even buy each other flowers. Take home life off the table so you don’t wind up discussing school drop-offs or bin night, and instead talk about your hopes, what inspires you, exchange jokes, and remember what it feels like to flirt.
And depending on how well the date goes, you might even wind up going home together… The point is, you don’t need to sleep in the same bed to build intimacy, chemistry, and love.
Sexy sleepovers and late night dates
We promised you solutions that were sexier than talking, so here it is: the adult sleepover. This is common for couples who don’t share the same household, but it works for defacto partners too. Just as you would plan a date night, choose a night where no one has to get up early, you won’t be disturbed by kids or housemates, and you can live with a little less sleep the next day.
Then allow yourselves to enjoy an evening together where the objective is to lean into the perks of sharing a bed - cuddling after sex, talking until you fall asleep, seeing their face when you wake up. Chances are you’ll enjoy it even more because it’s no longer the norm, and when the sleepover wraps up, your own bed is still yours for the taking.
Of course, if you’re intent on getting a solid 8 hours of sleep - trust us, we get it - then you can still enjoy the fun and connection of sex, cuddling, and talking, before returning to your own beds just as you’re drifting off to sleep. And since you’ve carved out time for this saucy sleepover, whoever wakes up first can hop straight into the other’s bed for a bit more fun in the morning!
In fact, researchers like Dr Wendy Troxel say this type of intentional intimacy can be extremely powerful in sustaining your romance, because the bedroom no longer holds the baggage of bad sleep, restless nights or your partner’s loud snoring.
“There’s actually very little systematic research on how sleeping apart affects couples’ relationship quality or intimacy. Anecdotally, however, I have talked to many couples who say that sleeping apart has ‘saved their relationship’,” says Wendy.
Create cute morning rituals
If you’re sleeping apart - either in separate rooms or separate homes - a great way to start the day is by coming together for a romantic ritual. Making coffee and snuggling in one of your beds together, going for a leisurely morning walk, cooking breakfast together before work, even morning sex if that works for you - all of these are ways to build intimacy and prioritise time together.
And none of them require a shared bed to do so. The red flags of sleeping separately are when your lives start to detach and the quality time diminishes. By forging meaningful moments together, particularly either side of sleep, you’ll maintain those touchpoints with your partner. You may not need a shared bed to feel love in the air, but there’s a good 16 hours outside of sleep where you can still connect with your partner.
No ‘one size fits all’ approach
Put simply, the best solution is the one that works best for you. If sleeping apart causes more problems than it solves, then consider the ways you might share a bed more successfully. But keep an open mind because for many couples, a good night’s sleep in their own bed has been the thing that made all the difference.
As Wendy puts it, “Consider [sleep] an investment in your closest relationships. At the end of the day, there is nothing healthier, happier and even sexier than a good night of sleep.”