More than a third of American adults say they sleep separately from their partner in another room occasionally or consistently in a practice known as “sleep divorce” in a bid to improve their nightly sleep, a new survey from The American Academy of Sleep Medicine shows.
The survey, conducted online between March 24-29 and released Monday, includes responses from 2,005 adults to a question asking if they make adjustments to their sleep routine “to accommodate a bed partner.”
Examples of such adjustments listed include using earplugs or eye masks, sleeping in another room either occasionally or consistently, going to sleep at an earlier or later time than desired and using a silent alarm.
While 42% of respondents said they made no adjustments to their sleeping routine, more than half admitted to making adjustments, including a collective 35% who said they either occasionally or consistently sleep in another room of their home. Some 20% of respondents reported sleeping in another room on occasion, while 15% said they did it consistently.
The study found that men are most likely to find refuge from their partners on the sofa or in a guest room. Nearly half of males (45%) reported that they occasionally or consistently sleep in another room, compared to 25% of women.
Forty-three percent of millennials, those between the ages of 27 and 42, told pollsters that they sleep in another part of the house either occasionally or consistently, making them the most likely age group to do so. Smaller shares of Generation X aged 43-58 (33%), the youngest group of American adults known as Generation Z (28%), baby boomers between the ages of 59 and 76 (22%), and the oldest group of Americans known as the Silent Generation (19%) practice “sleep divorce.”
“Although the term ‘sleep divorce’ seems harsh, it really just means that people are prioritizing sleep and moving into a separate room at night when needed,” AASM Pulmonologist and Spokesperson Dr. Seema Khosla said in a statement.
“However, if it is one partner’s loud snoring that is leading to separate sleep spaces, then you should encourage that partner to talk to a doctor about obstructive sleep apnea. This applies to both men and women who may snore.”
The results of the AASM survey suggest that the practice of sleeping in separate beds, a longstanding tradition of the English upper class, could be increasing. Results of a 2017 survey from the National Sleep Foundation showed that almost one in four married couples were already sleeping in separate beds.
Some mental health experts contend that sleeping in separate beds could help couples improve their relationship as more people seem open to the practice for various reasons, including improved sleep.
Jessy Warner-Cohen, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, said in an interview with The Well that prioritizing sleep is one of the healthiest moves anyone can make.
“Sleep is important to maintaining overall health, including emotional health,” Warner-Cohen insisted. “Chronic sleep deprivation puts you at risk for car accidents, weight gain, poorer immune response, increased blood pressure, diabetes, depression, irritability, anxiety and forgetfulness.”
And Dr. Khosla agrees.
“We know that poor sleep can worsen your mood, and those who are sleep deprived are more likely to argue with their partners. There may be some resentment toward the person causing the sleep disruption which can negatively impact relationships,” Khosla asserted in a statement. “Getting a good night’s sleep is important for both health and happiness, so it’s no surprise that some couples choose to sleep apart for their overall well-being.”