Relationships

“My Husband and I Sleep in Different Bedrooms”

My Husband and I Sleep in Different Bedrooms

This summer, when I wrote about my marriage’s bedtime routine, we noticed a compelling conversation happening in the comments. A bunch of readers said they were happily married but slept in different rooms from their spouses. We reached out to them, and here’s what they said…

How separate bedrooms came about

At first blush, separate rooms might seem dramatic — did the couple get in a huge fight? Is their relationship on the rocks? But sleeping apart is actually pretty common. A 2015 National Sleep Foundation survey found that 10 percent of couples reported sleeping in different rooms — and as many as 25 percent said they slept in separate beds.

Many reasons for sleeping apart are benign. “Originally, it was my husband’s snoring,” says Katie, who lives in Illinois and has two teenage sons. “The noise got really bad, and I was always poking him. Often, I would grab my pillow and go to the living room.”

Sleeping apart also permits alone time within a busy household. “My husband and I are big introverts, and once our twins were born, we needed more alone time than ever,” says Lee. Now, on a typical evening, the couple will put the twins to bed, hang out in the living room and part ways around 10 p.m. to retreat to their self-described introvert caves. “I swear, this has SAVED our marriage,” says Lee.

Erin from Florida agrees with the need for a room of one’s own. She and her husband are light sleepers who pick up on each other’s energy. “If one of us is struggling with something, and tossing and turning, the other will inevitably fall prey to the fitfulness,” she says. “We relish being alone at night to recharge our batteries.”

Where exactly they sleep

If you decide to sleep apart, the ideal scenario would be two different bedrooms, but what if you don’t have much space? “We don’t even have a master bedroom right now!” says Stephanie, who lives with her (snoring) husband and two children in New Zealand. Since converting their master into a home office, her husband has been crashing in the living room, while she has a single bed in the nursery.

Other couples switch things up, based on available sleeping spots. Katie sleeps in the master bedroom, while her husband heads to his study. And Erin’s husband alternates between the guest room, the living space and the master bedroom, which has two twin beds.

Why it’s awesome

No one likes waking up grumpy — and spending the night with a tosser-and-turner can cause that feeling every damn day. “We were miserable for our first handful of years together, and after we had a baby, forget it,” says Erin. By bunking apart, couples hope to wake up more refreshed. “We are so much happier during the day,” says Stephanie.

Plus, in your own room, you can choose the optimal temperature, fan setting, bedding, wake-up time, whatever you’d like. “There are so many things that I like about sleeping separately, but mainly aesthetics, which sounds kind of sad,” laughs Katie. “My bedroom feels serene to me, and I make my bed every day. My husband, not so much — he has a tendency to spill his espresso in the sheets!”

How sex happens

Movies and TV shows often equate intimacy with falling into bed together, but sex can come about in different ways, of course. “We might miss out on spontaneous interactions, but we just initiate sex earlier in the evening, or ask the other person while we’re spitting out toothpaste,” says Erin.

Plus, you can always knock on each other’s doors. “I retreat to my room to read before bed, so if I’m instigating, I might say, want to come read for a bit?” says Katie. “If my husband is instigating, he’ll come to my room dragging his big reading bolster and I’ll know what’s on his mind.”

What friends and relatives think

Since having separate bedrooms within a marriage isn’t the societal norm, friends and relatives aren’t always sure what to think. “I feel like I am forever explaining our situation,” says Stephanie. But generally, for these women, friends have been understanding. “My close girlfriends know and think it’s great, or at least amusing,” says Erin. “I’m pretty sure a few of them would like to try it themselves.”

What about kids? “I worried that our sons might think we were splitting up,” says Katie. “But they see us being affectionate all the time, so I don’t think it has ever been a real concern.”

After all, if something’s not working, why not switch things up? “What I find bizarre is how many couples have similar issues but keep sleeping the way they do because it is ‘normal,'” says Stephanie. “After being married for 30 years, my mum still loves snuggling under a big duvet and my dad still wakes up drenched in sweat — at least try two duvet covers!”


At the end of the day, of course, you don’t need to share covers every night to be connected. “If there is one thing in life I don’t worry about, it’s sleeping separately from my husband,” says Stephanie. “My husband is my best friend, and there isn’t one tiny ounce of me that feels like we aren’t meant to be. Our relationship is built on many things — sharing a bed just isn’t one of them.”

Or perhaps even sharing a house. “Some days I fantasize about separate little houses, Scandanavian-style, connected by an open porch,” says Katie. “I still love him like crazy after all these years, though, so maybe just a small porch.”

What about you? Have you ever thought about separate rooms? Or do you prefer having the same bed?

P.S. How to keep up a marriage after kids, and scheduling sex.

(Illustration by Alessandra Olanow for Cup of Jo. Thanks to Diana Woodward for help reporting.)

  1. Andrea stout says...

    Weve just come out of a really rocky time and our household of 5 young boys needs our joined front more than ever. We have 6 sons total with two being biologically mine from two previous marriages. Hes a dedicated husband and i a devoted wife, but our private hardship came to a very real head. We openly discussed divorce. How could two people that still love each other be heading towards divorce? It really boiled down to perception of support. Im having to remodel our home, and im creating a 5th bedroom for myself. He is still on the fence about the space, and i feel the same fears, but ive got to save our marriage. It seems like the constant proximity has really lessoned our respect for one another, and little irritations involving clumsy/loud knocking around in the dark or lack of a tidying routine escalate way too quickly after a crappy night of sleep. Add to that competing work/school schedules that put even more pressure on us and its been a powder keg of barely controlled highly supressed stress induced rage.
    This is not the kind of people we are.
    Anyhoo im refinishing floors and trying to move everything forward as fast as i can. Hes my best friend, and im trying to address issues head on before he has a chance to dismiss his feelings. Its crazy but i think if he can know its ok to be comfortable without me, and physical distance wont change our bond, i think this will solve a lot more than our morning angries. Stress is a very real killer, and we’re not getting any younger.
    At the very least i can finally sleep under the mounds of blankets i crave without his furnace self heating up more than my dreams.

  2. Mr. Fake Name says...

    My wife chose to regularly in the spare bedroom. Not that she has to, but she didn’t ask me.

    We’re both mid-50s. Together eight years and married four. No kids – anymore. (He was mine. I raised him. He’s at college.) Our height / weight are good. (I’m 6’1″ / 165 pounds.) No snoring. No farting. She has some medical issues that makes it difficult for her to get comfortable- I get that. (Frozen shoulder, compressed vertibra, headaches, etc.) Not that it matters, but I am a good provider, make 150-ish and pay all the bills.

    Our sex life was okay. Okay. Typically once a week. Due to her UTIs, there was already very limited spontaneity. We must thoroughly shower before sex. Now there is no spontaneity.

    I asked her if sleeping down the hall in the other room improved her sleep. I think she indicated “sort’a.”

    So, to keep a happy household, I take care of business myself, maybe once every two to three weeks. Monday morning I did. Surprise, Monday she decided to be amorous. Enthusiastically I tried to play ball. Unfortunately, at my age, I guess the refractory period wasn’t enough. Limp. I got her off with a bullet, then she went to her room. As you might guess, I woke in the middle of the night randy. I told her the next morning. She said “sorry,” and went about her business.

    Eitherway, there was no discussion regarding her moving out. I’m miserable.

  3. Jonathan says...

    We do the same thing, separate bedrooms. We have 4 bedrooms and no kids, so we each get a bedroom and an office that was a bedroom. It works great. I don’t really understand how average people function, a lot of their behavior is just bizarre. No two people need exactly the same amount of sleep every night, that’s impossible, so what sense does one bedroom ever make?! Beyond that it assumes two very average people with exactly the same 9-to-5 jobs the same distance away from work with the same time length for getting ready. The odds are a million to one that happens. Why should I have to go to bed when someone else is tired?!? That seems absolutely laughable, almost as laughable as being woken up because someone else is up. That’s their issue but I’m sleeping my 8 hours whenever I feel like it and it’s never, ever the same time every day.

  4. Sheng says...

    I most certainly agree. Everyone should get a good night’s sleep to function properly in the morning. Intimacy has nothing to do with it.

  5. Kate says...

    I suggested separate blankets, as mentioned before, and my partner won’t even go for that. I’ve mentioned separate bedrooms in the past but ever since he moved his desk out of our room it feels like a bedroom again. He stays up late in the office and I go to bed early without him. At first it bothered me a bit, but I love the peaceful bedtime routine and find I fall asleep much easier. I also love waking up to him magically beside me.

  6. Stretch says...

    Awful, awful, awful. The country is being divided and now couples are, too. Unless there is a medical condition, (and I don’t count snoring, but you can get earplugs or cpaps), it’s just selfish on the part of a person that wants it. This is just the beginning of a long road to the dissolution of marriage, which there is too much of this country.

    • Dan the Man says...

      Unfortunately, ear plugs and CPAP’s do not always solve the severe sleep disruption for the partner. I know from experience. However, I do agree that if you can sleep together, you should. One thing that helps, if you can afford it, and if it fits the room, is to get a king size bed, and perhaps your own blanket.

  7. London says...

    Super Married. Super happy to never share blankets again. At home I have a huge, extra-heavy duvet and the hubs has a sheet. We like different things, and don’t like fighting over coverage–or sweating! Now, even weirder to some of our friends, our very large dog sleeps in the middle of the bed. And as a respected member of the household, he also gets his own blanket! So we make the bed every morning by stretching out my duvet, pulling the dog’s fur (ha! adorable. and hysterical.) blanket to the pillows, and laying the sheet out. Its not blogger pretty, but its so nice to have everything ready for us all to pile into.

  8. Kim says...

    I spent years with restless nights due to hubbys snoring. And then I heard about shredded latex pillows. He stopped snoring!!! Even when he’s drunk! I’ve now turned into one of those weirdos who travel with their pillow. Check them out!