A few years ago a new property trend started to emerge, with many upmarket homes advertising a ‘snore room’ as one of their selling features.
This room was usually a smaller bedroom, sometimes attached to the main bedroom, that had a separate bed for one partner to retreat to each evening.
It was called the ‘snore room’ because couples that advocated having one said one partner snored and kept the other awake at night. Other reasons for such a room then emerged, including one partner being a restless sleeper and disturbing the other’s sleep while they flailed around at night, or both partners having different waking up times.
Whatever the reasons, having a ‘snore room’ started to become ‘a thing’.
Fast forward a few years and it appears that couples in favour of sleeping apart no longer even make reference to their partner’s room being a ‘snore room’. It is simply a case of each person in the relationship having their own bedroom.
Of course, there are those totally opposed to even the thought of sleeping away from their significant others, with arguments including that it breaks a couple’s intimacy; can cause partners to drift apart; or even simply that marriage was not designed for couples to sleep apart, no matter how difficult sharing a bed may be.
The trend has even been referred to as a ‘sleep divorce’, and Dr Greg Smalley, vice-president of Marriage at Focus on the Family, says whether this is bad for your relationship or not depends on the couple.
“It’s important to look at the motivation. If this is because the couple is disconnected, they’ve had a lot of conflict, or they prefer that one of them sleeps with the kids, that’s only masking deeper issues that they need to go to counselling to address.”
If work schedules and life events have forced you and your spouse into a sleep divorce, he says there are ways to stay intimately connected even when you have to sleep apart. One way to connect is to take advantage of “sacred moments.”
In their book Reconnected, written by Smalley and Erin Smally, Erin explains the meaning and significance of sacred moments.
“A sacred moment is a specific experience that facilitates connection between you and your spouse,” she writes.
“We have 1 440 minutes per day. Most of your minutes each day contain very few sacred relational moments. Recognise your sacred connection moments and protect them.”
Smalley adds: “The master bedroom should be a sacred place because of its ability to have that inner life conversation, to be physically intimate and to laugh and be playful. And as long as intimacy takes place within those four walls, not actually sleeping next to each other is not necessarily wrong. When a couple is sleeping, that’s a time there’s a ‘very low sacred connection opportunity.’
He also provides a healthy option for spouses who want a sleep divorce.
“Start off together and then one spouse can move to a different bed if it’s a snoring issue or a temperature issue. Then you’ve had a connection. Ten minutes a day of that connection makes such a difference.”
Citing research, Focus on the Family also states in an article on their website that people who slept less than an inch apart from their partner were happier in their relationship than those who slept more than 30 inches apart.
Either way, the trend looks like it is here to stay, with more people speaking out about it on social media platforms and advocating for its benefits.
The importance of sleep
Why many psychologists or marriage experts do not completely disagree with sleeping in separate bedrooms, they do warn that relationships can break down if the habit or routine is not handled correctly. Some even believe that sleeping apart may do more harm than good, unless the reasons for it are due to disruptive sleep. This is because quality sleep is an important requirement for daily living, and the lack of it can negatively impact one’s life.
While there are many factors that may serve as a deal-breaker within a relationship, Johannesburg clinical psychologist Liane Lurie says snoring need not be one of them. In fact, it is important that the non-snoring partner separates the involuntary behaviour of snoring from the character of who their partner actually is, she adds, explaining that they are not deliberately doing this to harm or irritate their partners.
“Many couples have adjusted to a comfortable sleeping routine, only to find that an episode of sleepless nights suddenly alerts them to their partner’s problem. For others, a normal sleep routine was never established and restless sleep becomes the norm.
“It is important that the snoring problem is not ignored as it may signify a more serious sleep disorder that interferes with breathing. Disrupted sleep also plays a massive part in one’s mood and general day-to-day functioning.”
Despite their best efforts to remain in the same bed, Lurie says some couples do eventually opt for separate bedrooms, and these are often those couples that have tried adjusting sleep positions and are exasperated. And while it may seem like a good idea in theory, she says couples have to be careful that they don’t “simply go their separate ways at night like room-mates”.
“Intimate time spent cuddling, having sex, sharing a movie together all form part of a healthy relationship. Quality contact before you go to your respective beds is crucial.”