How to Keep Sleep from Ruining Your Relationship
"It drives me crazy how he falls asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow."
"Men can fall asleep faster, almost anywhere, and have fewer complaints about the quality of their sleep," says John Dittami, an Austria-based sleep researcher and co-author of the recent book Sleeping Better Together. One possible explanation has to do with sex hormones, which affect how long we sleep overall and the amount of time we spend in each stage. Women's levels of estrogen and progesterone tend to fluctuate, especially during menstruation, pregnancy and menopause. Dittami says it's important for each member of a couple to focus on his or her own go-to-sleep routines. If yours involves reading in bed, look for a gooseneck light with a focused, just-strong-enough beam, because even a small amount of diffuse light can disrupt your partner, according to Dittami. Leave the iPad and laptop, with their sleep-inhibiting blue glow, in the other room. Because sleeping men tend to be less sensitive to movement, Dittami says you don't need to worry about waking him when you climb into bed.
"His snuggling—while sweet—makes it hard for me to fall asleep."
While researching their book, Dittami and his co-authors found that for couples, spending time together in bed (talking, touching, snuggling) is an extremely important aspect of a relationship. But most of us try to combine this together time with sleeping time, and that's where things get tricky. "Sleeping is an individual thing. It's not a duet," Dittami says. He advises separating the two phases of the night and setting aside time for pillow talk or cuddling (or both at once) before you move to opposite sides of the mattress. "We have this Hollywood idea where the couple goes to bed at the exact same time, with the woman falling asleep snuggled under the arm of the male," Dittami says. Not only does this rarely happen in real life, but, he points out, few women would be comfortable with their neck cramping in their partner's armpit.
Next: Resolving the great sheet debate (none, one or seven?)