This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.
The older I get, the more I relish my own company (and the lure of uninterrupted boxsets.) When I am husband-less in the house, there is no one else to consider apart from our two ancient dogs and let’s face it they are not very demanding. In particular, sleeping apart means hogging the entire bed myself is an absolute dream – no duvet pulling, wafting smells, snorting, snoring, guffawing or restlessness from the other side of the bed. If I wake in the middle of the night I can, with impunity, switch on the light, make a cup of tea, read a book, and flap the duvet wildly as I twist and turn to get comfortable. I don’t have to creep to the bathroom in the pitch blackness, tiddling on the side of the porcelain so as not to disturb my sleeping partner. And when he’s away, there’s no pre-dawn alarm shrieking from his side of the marital mattress, no icy draughts blowing under the duvet as he sits up, throws the covers back and yawns as loudly as a rampant stag.
Actually, sleeping apart is, all things considered, the overtly sensible thing to do: on average, couples suffer 50% more sleep disturbances if they share a bed. We all function so much better after a good night’s sleep and, according to a feature on TV recently, live longer. The admirable Jenny Murray (Woman’s Hour) hasn’t shared a bed with her partner for over two decades and claims it is the secret of their happy relationship. Apparently almost one in four American couples sleep apart and, 60% of new homes will be built in the States with dual master bedrooms. As sleeping separately becomes much more common, I suppose the perceived stigma will lessen.
However, despite the obvious benefits, a few nights on my tod is enough. Actually it’s not long before I am looking forward to him coming home and snuggling up in bed next to me. You may get a better night’s sleep when you don’t share a bed, but it also makes it easier to avoid one another, when what many couples need is connection. For us, lying in bed together is a wonderfully peaceful time to have a cuddle and talk about our day. But that’s just what suits us. Couples should do what makes them happy – whether that’s sleeping together or apart.
However, if you are like me and have Mr. Noisy lying next to you, those nights of sleeping through for a blissfully unbroken eight hours are a distant dream. Anyhow, I’m a great one for saying that I don’t want to bang on about a problem, just find a solution. And, as it’s National Bed Month, here are my tips for waking refreshed:
Gentle exercise aids sleep: After twenty five years of marriage, Husband and I rarely do anything strenuous at bedtime apart from push-me-pull-you with the duvet, which I suppose counts as light exercise. Seriously though, the older I get the more important exercise seems to me to be – not only for our health, flexibility, posture and weight control, but for our souls. Even a gentle walk in the fresh is better than nothing and will help you sleep at night.
Light is important – darkness helps you sleep: That’s OK then as husband goes to bed before me and I have to stumble about in the pitch blackness.
Leaving a chink in the curtains allows the dawn light to penetrate and your biological clock to reset: Personally don’t need to do this as husband gets up earlier than me and stomps around until he’s absolutely sure he’s woken me up.
High temperatures disturb sleep: Keep your bedroom on the cool side – around 65 degrees.
Enjoy a hot shower or bath before bed: this helps the body release heat which aids sleep.
Avoid eating two hours before you go to bed: Eat as early as you can and nothing for, ideally, two hours before bedtime. Damn. No more secret late night fridge raids then.
Don’t power nap during the day: then you will be properly tired at bedtime.
Optimise your mattress and pillows: Both need to be gently supportive. Most mattresses last up to 10 years, so perhaps it’s time to invest in a new one? The ideal mattress should keep your spine in alignment and distribute pressure evenly throughout the body. You could add a topper – it will add another layer and make your bed feel more luxurious. Synthetic pillows should be replaced at least once a year. Pillows should be washed once a month. Buy the best bedlinen you can afford – there is nothing like crisp high count cotton to make you feel like snuggling down for a good night’s sleep.
Stick to a schedule: If at all possible, go to bed and wake up at the same time every day – even at weekends. This helps regulate your body clock and help you sleep through the night.
Avoid noise distractions: Consider using ear plugs if you can hear snoring, sheep baa-ing, owls tawhitawhooing or commuters driving off to work at 5am. You can buy soft wax ones from Boots that are quite comfortable to wear.
Hope these tips help you get a good night’s sleep. Whether you prefer to share a bed with your partner or not…
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