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Is Your Shared Bed A War Zone?

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Aired 7/29/10

Is your bed a war zone? Does your husband snore or your wife steal the covers? Do you suffer from sleepless nights because you share a bed with your romantic partner? One in four couples sleep in separate beds according to a 2005 study. We'll talk about the challenges and benefits of sharing a bed.

According to a 2005 study by the National Sleep Foundation, one out of four couples sleep in separate beds. Others couples face a night of snoring and restless sleep. Are separate beds the answer?
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Above: According to a 2005 study by the National Sleep Foundation, one out of four couples sleep in separate beds. Others couples face a night of snoring and restless sleep. Are separate beds the answer?

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. In a busy world, where couples don't always have time to eat together, go out together, or even talk together, at night, at least, couples expect to sleep together. But apparently even that tradition is being challenged. The National Sleep Foundation reports that a full 25% of American couples either sleep in different beds, or in entirely different rooms. In fact, the majority of new custom homes built are adopting a double-master bedroom floor plan. So, what's our national problem with snuggling? I’d like to welcome my guests. Family social science professor Paul Rosenblatt has interviewed couples about their bed-sharing challenges. The research forms the basis of a book called, "Two in a Bed: The Social System of Couple Bed Sharing." And, Paul, welcome to These Days.

DR. PAUL ROSENBLATT (Professor of Psychlogy, University of Minnesota): Hi, thanks.

CAVANAUGH: Marriage and family therapist Allison Cohen is also here. Good morning, Allison.

ALLISON COHEN (Marriage and Family Therapist): Good morning. Thank you for having me.

CAVANAUGH: Now we invite our listeners to join the conversation. Do you have trouble sleeping with your romantic partner? If you do, would you tell us why? Do you think getting a good night’s sleep is more important than sharing a bed? Give us a call. Our number is 1-888-895-5727, that’s 1-888-895-KPBS. Now, Paul, a recent New York Times article suggests more couples than ever are sleeping in separate beds. Does that surprise you?

DR. ROSENBLATT: No. No, although I – I don’t think it’s that simple because I think people who look like they’re sleeping apart sometimes sleep together and people who look like they’re sleeping together sometimes sleep apart.

CAVANAUGH: How so?

DR. ROSENBLATT: You just – you have a choice about what to do every minute and some minutes of the night you could be together and some minutes of the night you could be apart. Like I’ve interviewed couples who start out the night together and then get apart or people who spend some nights together and some nights apart. And it depends on, you know, what – where their bodies are at and how they’re getting along and what their work schedule is and what space is available and lots of things.

CAVANAUGH: So, in other words, in one couple’s house that they have a – one master bedroom and one double bed. Even though that’s the situation, that’s the idea of how they’re sleeping, one of them might routinely sleep most of the night on the couch.

DR. ROSENBLATT: Yeah, yeah. Right.

CAVANAUGH: Now, why do you think that’s the case? Why are so many couples sleeping apart?

DR. ROSENBLATT: Well, in my interviews it mostly had to do with getting a good night’s sleep. Sometimes it had to do with somebody being angry with somebody. But people might toss and turn or they might need to take up too much room or they have different preferences about temperature in the room, but the overwhelming thing, the thing that was most dominant was snoring. And people try to deal with snoring in other ways than sleeping apart. You know, you might get earplugs or you might find that poking your partner would roll your partner over and the snoring would stop for awhile. But often it was snoring.

CAVANAUGH: We’re taking your calls about couples’ bed sharing. 1-888-895-5727, if you’d like to join the conversation. Allison Cohen, you are a therapist. You deal with people who have marriage and family issues. I’m wondering how big an issue is bed sharing in a relationship?

COHEN: This really is pretty common. I see this a lot in treatment. You know, the thing I really want to stress here is that different dynamics work for different couples. You know, there’s a really big stigma attached to sleeping in separate beds because people assume that there’s something dysfunctional about the relationship.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

COHEN: The advantage of growing up is that we get to do things differently based on what works for us, not what works for our parents or what our friends say, really what works for us. And this is not something that I recommend for every couple but for couples that really do have significant issues based on not getting a good night’s sleep, it’s a great solution.

CAVANAUGH: But is there a stigma involved, as you say? That people really, even if it would be better for them…

COHEN: Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: …that they don’t want to do it?

COHEN: Absolutely. I know couples that do sleep in separate beds strictly for sleep issues and they don’t talk about it because they’re afraid of the outside perception.

CAVANAUGH: Now, Paul, is it a bad sign if couples just decide to sleep in different beds?

DR. ROSENBLATT: Not usually. I mean, I agree with Allison that often the issue is about what sleeping apart means, and once they get past that, if they get past that, it’s a lot easier to sleep apart. Also, I live in Minnesota and I did my interviews here and for some people it’s a bad thing to sleep apart in winter because you really need the warmth of the other person. But also a fair number of the women I interviewed felt safer having their partner nearby and so that was an issue to get by.

COHEN: Umm-hmm.

DR. ROSENBLATT: But, you know, as Allison said, couples differ and there are couples where one partner wants to sleep apart and the other one doesn’t particularly want that. Some men, much more than women, wanted the continued sexual access even in some elderly couples and so they didn’t like having the partner sleep apart.

COHEN: Umm-hmm.

DR. ROSENBLATT: But, you know, for lots of couples, it’s great to sleep apart. They get along better, they have a better night’s sleep, they’re happier with each other in the morning, and they can still get back together in bed if they need to do it or want to do it.

CAVANAUGH: Right, now I’m wondering, Allison, what kind of problems does that engender if one person wants – says I have to get out of this bed…

COHEN: Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: …I just can’t sleep. How do you work to resolve something like that?

COHEN: Well, there is some resentment that comes up from one partner wanting to be apart. You know, some people want to be close. They want to have that pillow talk at the end of the night, you know, that time to connect. And I always encourage couples to really talk about why they want to sleep in separate rooms. Sometimes it is a completely pragmatic issue, they really need their sleep, sometimes it is one couple – one person in the couple trying to create emotional distance in the relationship. If that’s the case, it’s really important to start to explore that before you make the decision…

CAVANAUGH: Right.

COHEN: …to sleep apart.

CAVANAUGH: We’re taking your calls about sleeping together, 1-888-895-5727. The reason some couples don’t want to sleep together anymore, they don’t want to share a bed. The number, once again, is 1-888-895-KPBS. Let’s take a call, and I hope I’m pronouncing this correctly, Mirvet is calling us from Normal Heights. Good morning, and welcome to These Days.

MIRVET (Caller, Normal Heights): Good morning. It’s funny that you guys brought this topic up because my aunt is moving here from overseas and my cousin was looking for two separate beds and I’m like, well, wait a second, don’t they sleep in the same bed? And apparently they haven’t for over 30 years now.

CAVANAUGH: I see. And…

MIRVET: And then I was thinking about it myself because my husband and I sleep in the same bed now but we have a two-year-old in the bed with us and I’m just a night owl. I can’t sleep and I want to stay up and read and I’m actually seriously debating it.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you for the call. Which brings us to some of the reasons that people choose to sleep in separate beds. And, Paul, maybe you could run us down. Are children one of the reasons, wanting to stay up later? What’s the rundown of the litany of the reasons people choose to sleep in separate beds?

DR. ROSENBLATT: I think the list is about two thousand items long. But, you know, children sometimes make a difference. If your two-year-old toddles into bed with you, one of you might be able to get a good night’s sleep even if the other one can’t if one of you gets to another room. Wanting to be up reading is another issue. I would say every blue collar worker couple I interviewed, anybody who was over 30 had had some kind of physical problem with the back or the knee or the shoulder and sometimes they needed to sleep by themselves just because of the position they had to put their bodies into.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

DR. ROSENBLATT: A bad cold might put you into separate rooms.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

DR. ROSENBLATT: Some people have nightmares where they swing out their arms or something and, you know, one woman started sleeping apart just because she would get banged in the head sometimes by her husband when he was having the nightmare. Sometimes working different shifts makes a difference or, you know, having different wake up times. So, you know, she has to wake up at six in the morning and he has to wake up at 8:30. And he sleeps better if she doesn’t get out of bed, so they sleep apart on weekdays but on weekends they sleep together. They just – Cats would be another thing. Cats seem to own beds. It’s really hard to keep cats out of beds and sometimes one person says, okay, the cats want to sleep with you, they don’t really want to sleep with me. I don’t want to sleep with the cats. You know, the cats might sleep on your body or the cats might track kitty litter into the bed. There are all sorts of – One woman didn’t like the mice that the cats brought in.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, no.

COHEN: Oh.

CAVANAUGH: Now you draw the line there.

DR. ROSENBLATT: Yeah, yeah, right.

CAVANAUGH: Now Paul’s been documenting a list of really sort of reasonable excuses that someone would want to – legitimate excuses for people who would want to actually go to a different bed to get a better night’s sleep. But, Allison, you said something interesting a little while ago and that is that sometimes this desire masks a real problem in a relationship.

COHEN: Absolutely. You know, we see couples in treatment that have emotional issues going on between the couple and you really have to sort of talk about what is underlying. You know, is it a lack of communication and that sort of manifests in a disconnection in the relationship that sometimes manifests in a lack of sex. All of these things contribute to the breakdown of the relationship and if we’re not talking about them, we sometimes take steps that can really impact the relationship in the negative way. We see that a lot.

CAVANAUGH: We’re taking your calls if you’d like to join the conversation. The number is 1-888-895-5727. Jessica is on the line from Hillcrest. Good morning, Jessica. Welcome to These Days.

JESSICA (Caller, Hillcrest): Hi, Maureen. Thanks for taking my call.

CAVANAUGH: You’re welcome.

JESSICA: I’m one of those. I was married almost 6 years and we would sleep separately but not on purpose. My husband would fall asleep every night on the couch watching the television and I did all that I could to wake him to come to bed. I tried physically rolling him off the couch, setting an alarm, turning the TV to turn off, anything I could to shake him out of his sleep and it never worked. And it was very hurtful to me because I didn’t like falling asleep alone every night. We – This is all past tense, I’m speaking, and the marriage did not last…

CAVANAUGH: Ohh…

JESSICA: …but I think it was one of the elements that contributed to our demise. We could never get on the same page.

CAVANAUGH: Jessica, thank you for that. Thanks for sharing that story. I’m wondering, Paul, how much does TV watching play into the idea of people not being able to sleep together?

DR. ROSENBLATT: Oh, that’s complicated. It depends on where the TV set is. A TV set in the bedroom might enable people to sleep together better or it might get in the way.

CAVANAUGH: Right.

DR. ROSENBLATT: You know, he’s watching the TV, he’s controlling the remote, and she doesn’t want to watch that and she wants the set to be not so loud. And so sometimes – And sometimes – so sometimes the TV in the bedroom works and sometimes it doesn’t. And sometimes the partner is into the TV watching in a separate room or doing something with a computer and the partner, other partner, might resent it. But you can also – I’ve interviewed couples that, in a sense, had two bedtimes. I mean, let’s say he’s watching TV, she goes to bed, but they have an agreement that when he comes to bed—and it might be three hours later—she’ll wake up and they’ll snuggle and talk. Not everybody can do that but some couples I’ve had that work for.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take another call. Andrew’s calling. He’s on the freeway. Good morning, Andrew. Welcome to These Days.

ANDREW (Caller, Mobile): Good morning.

CAVANAUGH: Hi.

ANDREW: I was going to say that my wife – This Sunday, my wife and I’ll be married 22 years.

CAVANAUGH: Congratulations.

ANDREW: Thank you. And I came on a little bit strong earlier. I said that I thought it was kind of ridiculous. We can’t stand the idea of being apart so we love each other and, you know, we just enjoy being together with each other every moment that we are. And I understand the obstacles that you were talking about but to me those are just, you know, different challenges of life.

CAVANAUGH: Right.

ANDREW: I…

CAVANAUGH: Thank you, Andrew, for the call. I’m wondering, Allison, how many people think that not sleeping in the same bed mean that they don’t love each other anymore? Do you hear that a lot?

COHEN: We do hear that a lot and that’s why, you know, you really have to process what the underlying motivation is. And, you know, in reference to Andrew’s call, I do think that when couples get married, there’s an automatic sense that we’re together and everything’s great. But it really does take an emotional, physical shift to say I’m not an I anymore, we’re a we.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

COHEN: And that does require some changes, like perhaps going to bed earlier or going to bed later so that your partner can sort of have that time with you at the end of the day. It’s not always feasible for every couple but there is that shift that needs to happen. You know, what can we do to make it work? And if it’s just a sleep issue, then maybe we try sleeping in separate beds from time to time.

CAVANAUGH: And I’m wondering, Paul, people who have been married for quite some time and it sounds like it’s a good marriage, it’s working really well, do they have problems not sleeping together?

DR. ROSENBLATT: Well, first of all, I think people who have been together a long time, they tend to be older and they tend to have more snoring and sleep apnea and other…

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

DR. ROSENBLATT: …physical problems that get in the way of sleep. But there’s another side that’s really interesting that, you know, I interviewed like 42 couples and I think in about 4 of them, one partner felt that he or she was alive only because they shared a bed. You know, one man went into a diabetic shock and his…

CAVANAUGH: Ohh…

DR. ROSENBLATT: …wife realized it and did something right away. Or another – a woman started having seizures and because her husband was there, he could get emergency help right away. And so there – I do run into older people who sleep together not so much – I mean, there may be love. I mean, there may be all sorts of things going on, there may be love, there may be sex, there may be feelings of safety and comfort, but also there’s this really practical thing that maybe I’ll survive longer if we share a bed.

CAVANAUGH: Somebody’ll be able to do some CPR on you.

DR. ROSENBLATT: Right, right. You’ve gotta find – you have to find an emergency medical person to share a bed with.

COHEN: They’re right there.

CAVANAUGH: We have to take a short break and when we return, we will continue to take your calls at 1-888-895-5727. You’re listening to These Days on KPBS.

CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. My guests are Professor Paul Rosenblatt, the author of a book called, "Two in a Bed: The Social System of Couple Bed Sharing." And marriage and family therapist Allison Cohen. And we are talking about a trend that’s been identified in certain quarters about more couples sleeping in separate beds. We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727 or you can go online, share your story at KPBS.org/thesedays. Let’s take a call right off the bat. Alison is calling from Tierrasanta. Good morning, Alison, and welcome to These Days.

ALISON (Caller, Tierrasanta): Hi. I just wanted to call. I was raised in a house of four and my parents, it was never talked about but it was always understood that their bedroom and especially their bed was a sanctuary for them, like a getaway from them being parents, from them being who they were at work. It was just a time for them to be themselves as a couple, man, you know, husband and wife, man and woman. And I kind of get that feeling that that is not a popular thought of raising children anymore, that, you know, and I was just wondering your thoughts about that in regards to this, you know, trend toward not sleeping in the same bed together.

CAVANAUGH: Very good. Thank you for that call. What about when children enter the picture. What kind of effect does that have on the marital bed? Paul.

DR. ROSENBLATT: Well, there are couples who really want their children in bed and value that and they’re – it’s actually a social movement. And also there are people who are economically in a place where they don’t really have a choice. The children are going to be there. Some of us have children in our lives who don’t give us a choice either. They – they’re like the cats, they just show up and you can’t – you’d need an army to keep them out and even that might not work. But, yeah, I do interview couples where the marital bed is kind of sacred and they try to keep the kids out. I also know couples, I’ve also talked to couples where the partners differ. One of them comes from a cultural setting where the bed is a sacred place and the other comes from a place in the world where – or a cultural setting where everybody shares the bed. The bed is a family play place as well as a family sleeping place. And some of those couples spend a long time, you know, like years, sorting out what they’re going to do about their differences.

CAVANAUGH: Allison, is there any kind of a common feeling in psych – in therapy for marriage and family that when a baby should share a couple’s bed? I mean, is there a point at which that should stop?

COHEN: The thing that I love is that there’s no common expectation. It truly is individual to the couple. And Paul’s absolutely right, there’s certain cultural expectations, there’s certain family expectations based on the way you were raised. So there really isn’t a general concept across the board when it should happen or when children should leave the bed. But what I do see a lot is in terms of them sort of getting a good night’s sleep, is that there tends to be one primary caregiver that’s up in the middle of the night tending to the children, which prompts this desire to sleep in separate beds because one person’s always getting up and waking the other person.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take another call. Laura is calling from San Diego. Good morning, Laura, and welcome to These Days.

LAURA (Caller, San Diego): Good morning. Thank you for taking my call.

CAVANAUGH: You’re welcome.

LAURA: So my husband and I are both working professionals and we work more than 40 hours a week just because of the demands of our jobs and we both have two young boys. Well, we have two young boys together. And when I was nursing, which, of course, is what doctors say you should do for the first year of life, I was also working and my kids were in daycare and it felt really – I had a lot of guilt having my kids raised in daycare and then going home and putting them in their own bed. And so I guess I made the choice—my husband didn’t have much to say about it—but I made the choice that I would rather spend time sleeping with my children than sleeping with my husband at least during that period when they were little and still nursing because to me it felt like I didn’t want anyone else in their lives to touch them more than I did. And the only way that I could be the primary person to hold and cuddle with them was to do it at night because I was at work all day.

CAVANAUGH: How did your husband take that, Laura?

LAURA: I don’t even know because I didn’t give him a choice. We’re married, we’re happily married and my kids are older now and they sleep fine and they’re in their same beds. And, to be honest, I didn’t care what he thought because it was – I had so much guilt about the necessity of working that I don’t think that I even entered – entertained a dialogue about it.

CAVANAUGH: I thank you so…

LAURA: That…

CAVANAUGH: Thank you for calling and telling us that, Laura. That’s a good story. Larry is calling from Ocean Beach. Good morning, Larry, and welcome to These Days.

LARRY (Caller, Ocean Beach): Good morning. I have a couple of comments. I’ve – Over the years, I’ve started to snore like a gorilla with a head cold. And, you know, my attitude was, okay, well, I can’t do anything about it. You just have to deal with it. However, now I’ve come to a different realization. My wife works – She has a very difficult job. She uses her – she’s a database administrator and she really works hard and it exhausts her. She complains about my snoring and over the last, oh, couple of years, three or four nights a week I sleep in a separate bedroom. However, it does damage the relationship. It – You lose that closeness, you know, the time that you have when you first go to bed and you talk about the day and everything that’s going on and it’s just – it’s really bad. So what I decided to do was not think about myself so much and be selfish but I recently, in fact this week, went to a sleep clinic and – to see if there’s anything that they can do, and they can do something. In fact, tonight I’m going to an overnight thing where they come up with a way…

CAVANAUGH: Ohh…

LARRY: …to treat the snoring.

CAVANAUGH: Right, right.

LARRY: And I think that it does damage the relationship so much but we have to be – at the same time we have to be considerate and think about ourselves and there are many things that can be done that can help with sleep disorders like snoring, plus it’s terrible bad for you.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you, Larry. Thank you for the call. Professor Paul Rosenblatt, do people sometimes give up on sharing a bed over issues like snoring when there’s no reason to?

DR. ROSENBLATT: Oh, I – That’s a hard question to answer. There are people who try a lot of different things…

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

DR. ROSENBLATT: …including sleep clinics, and some sleep clinics have done magic. And some couples figure out on their own things to do to cut down on snoring. Like one guy I interviewed said my normal weight’s 220. If I’m snoring, it’s because my weight’s gone over 220 and I find if I just lose a few pounds my snoring goes way down.

CAVANAUGH: Hmm…

DR. ROSENBLATT: And so, you know, for them, it’s just his periodic diets that help. And for some couples, going to bed at separate times can help. And the nudging, you know, plenty of people snore when they’re on their backs but not so much on their sides and so learning how to nudge your partner in a way that’s loving and effective, you know, that might take a few weeks but once you know how to do it, you might be able to get a much better night’s sleep.

CAVANAUGH: Allison, what’s your take on this?

COHEN: You know, I’d love to address Larry’s point here. He’s absolutely right. For some couples, it can damage the relationship because you’re not getting that time at the end of the day, that time to connect and feel intimate with each other. But if you have decided that this is the best way to go for your relationship, there are ways to make sure that you keep that connection. You have date nights, you spend time in the morning over coffee, I mean, there are little ways that you can sort of get that intimacy back and you absolutely do have to get creative to make sure you have that time.

CAVANAUGH: And let’s take another call. Milt is calling us. I believe he’s driving. Milt, good morning, and welcome to These Days.

MILT (Caller, Mobile): Good morning. Thank you. I’m actually on the road. I’m just pulling over so there’s less noise and I can drive safe with you.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you.

MILT: I’m real pleased to hear Larry’s call. I’m a physician. I’ve been practicing sleep medicine since 1980 and have been boarded in sleep medicine since 1982. I’m a psychiatrist as well. I’ve been boarded in psychiatry since 1980. So certainly the intimacy issues are important, however, the point that Larry raises is very critical. Snoring that is loud enough to disturb a bed partner’s sleep is suggestive of sleep apnea and sleep apnea’s not just an interpersonal issue. The individual with sleep apnea is at risk for hypertension, heart disease, stroke. There are very effective treatments. Weight loss certainly can help. It doesn’t help everyone. Now the other point that was made, I think by one of your participants, about the individual who was acting out dreams in sleep and striking out or grabbing a bed partner, that isn’t a nightmare. That’s actually a very specific disorder called rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder associated with the specific neurologic findings, with development of Parkinsonian-like syndrome. So I think it’s certainly, obviously, important how sleep affects relationships but when we have disorders of this sort and behaviors that are inappropriate, people should seek medical care and get appropriate treatment for what can be very serious medical conditions.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you. Thank you for calling in, Milt. I appreciate it, with that good information. I was wondering while Milt was speaking, about the idea of some people perhaps deciding not to share a bed, sleeping in separate beds, but that actually helping the emotional aspect of their relationship. Allison, have you come across that?

COHEN: Absolutely. You know, again, we don’t like to talk about the fact that sleep is really important. It makes our partner feel that we’re less important. But when we are well rested, it impacts every aspect of your day. You know, you start out going to work, you have better interactions with your coworkers, you get your work done, you come home and you bring that energy home. It impacts your relationships with your children, with your partner, and every single element of your relationship improves because you’re in a better place to be more receptive to communication, effort, time together.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take a call from Peggy, calling from La Jolla. Good morning, Peggy, and welcome to These Days.

PEGGY (Caller, La Jolla): Thanks. Yeah. Well, what I wanted to say is that we have been married 40 years and we have slept apart for most of that time because we don’t want to bother each other. We have our different lives and it doesn’t mean we don’t love each other, it’s just that we respect each other’s privacy and way of life. My husband likes to watch television before going to bed. I like to read. And that disturbs both of us. So we have opted to sleep separately and if we want to sleep together, we sleep together. But it doesn’t mean we love each other less. My parents were the same thing. They did the same thing. They slept separately and they lived a long life together. And that’s all I want to say. It’s just that a husband or a wife is not a possession that you want to possess him all the time and also in bed all the time, you know. They’re separate people and they have their separate lives and you have to give each person freedom so that they don’t resent each other by disturbing each other.

CAVANAUGH: Peggy…

PEGGY: That’s all I have to say.

CAVANAUGH: …I appreciate it. Thank you for calling. Now, Peggy calls in after 40 years of marriage. Blue is on the line from Del Mar, married just a year. Good morning, Blue, and welcome to These Days.

BLUE (Caller, Del Mar): Oh, good morning. Thank you for taking my call.

CAVANAUGH: Yes.

BLUE: Yes, when I met my husband, he was the owner of two dogs that he rescued and I was not a pet lover at all but between the three of them, the snoring required me to put in ear plugs. I know that people don’t like how they feel. Also, my husband sleeps under a down blanket and it’s just too heavy for me so I choose to sleep under another blanket. But I wanted to say, and as a new bride, it’s just very important that you make it work and you make conscious decisions to – and like your last caller said, do what it takes for each relationship. I think it’s healthy and important to work it out and sleep together and be together. So…

CAVANAUGH: Thank you. Thank you for the call. Professor Paul Rosenblatt, in your book, "Two in a Bed,” you learn that sharing a bed is an important experience for a lot of couples. It’s sort of a rite of passage. How did you come to that conclusion?

DR. ROSENBLATT: The way you say that doesn’t sound familiar but what I would say is it means a lot to a lot of people. It symbolizes couple togetherness, it symbolizes that they are really a couple not only to outsiders but also to themselves. And – But I also want to say that people’s ideas about everything change over time. Their bodies change over time, their relationship changes over time. And so in some ways, you have to learn to sleep together again and again. You know, you have an injury, you – somebody starts snoring, there’s a pregnancy, somebody’s going through menopause, your relationship changes. There are all sorts of things that are happening. Work life intrudes in bed a lot and sometimes that changes things. So, again and again couples have to learn how to sleep together and whatever works today, that’s great, but it might not be working six months from now.

CAVANAUGH: So, Paul, the idea that sharing a bed is a lifelong challenge is another one of the things nobody…

DR. ROSENBLATT: Yeah.

CAVANAUGH: …tells you, right?

DR. ROSENBLATT: Yes, yes.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take a call. Lielle is calling from San Diego. Good morning, Lielle. Welcome to These Days.

LIELLE (Caller, San Diego): Good morning. Yeah, I just wanted to say that I think that this is – has increased because you have a lot of couples that are getting married, let’s say, a second or third time and have developed their own sleep habits and then they have to combine them and I think that that’s why a lot of this is going on. I’ve been with my husband for over 6 years and I use empath because I’m a light sleeper and a night owl. I’ve broken up with men because their snoring was just so out of control. And, you know, plugs or headphones or anything would not work. In this case, obviously, I found my, you know, one that I wanted to keep but he…

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

LIELLE: …is a pretty heavy snorer and, you know, and I wanted to see if we could, you know, somehow come to an understanding. And something that I do that’s annoying to him is I sleep with a fan on and it kind of drowns out the noise. So how we’ve been able to compromise is we actually sleep head to toe and so I will sleep at, you know, with my head at the end of the bed and a fan at the end of the bed coming towards me so that it drowns out his snoring and then, you know, that allows us to be present and physical in the same bed and then, you know, he gets his early morning nookie and we’re great.

CAVANAUGH: Very…

LIELLE: So I just wanted to present that as an option for people, that you can sleep, you know, head to feet and still be intimate and still have those opportunities for intimate moments and just to be really creative about it. And, you know, it’s taken us some time but we finally figured it out.

CAVANAUGH: Lielle, very creative. Thank you. I’m wondering, in the very few minutes, actually seconds, we have left, if, Allison, you could tell us any advice you have for people who are struggling with this.

COHEN: Well, you know, Lielle just touched on something absolutely brilliant. Creative solutions.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

COHEN: There are creative solutions out there. I want to be clear. I’m not recommending that all couples should sleep in separate beds but, again, there are these unique solutions that are very specific to individual partners and it can make all the difference in the world. So talk about it.

CAVANAUGH: And, Paul, should people just do what’s best for them?

DR. ROSENBLATT: Yes, plus I think they have to believe their partner because we’re talking about a lot of things people don’t know they’re doing. A lot of snorers don’t seem to know they snore and a lot of people who toss and turn don’t know they do that. And just don’t argue with your partner. Believe your partner. If your partner says you snore, act like you snore.

CAVANAUGH: Always good advice. I want to thank you so much. Professor Paul Rosenblatt, thanks a lot.

DR. ROSENBLATT: Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: Allison Cohen, thanks for speaking with us.

COHEN: Thank you, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: If you would like to comment online, please do, KPBS.org/thesedays. Coming up, it’s the Weekend Preview right here on KPBS.

Comments

Avatar for user 'dianac'

dianac | July 29, 2010 at 11:06 a.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

Several years ago my husband he told me that I snored, and that he thought I might have Sleep Apnea. I told him the he snored too, and that he might have it as well.

We both went to Dr. Mindy Cetel for overnight sleep studies and learned that we both have it(!) Additionally, we discovered that my husband has Restless Leg Syndrome, so he has been taking Requip ever since.

Since being treated for apnea and RLS several years ago, we have both been sleeping much better!

Thank you for another interesting program this morning. I hope my comments will help others think about seeking treatment for snoring, which may be caused by apnea (which is a very dangerous condition, by the way, and deserves an entire program).

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Avatar for user 'WinterAkita'

WinterAkita | July 29, 2010 at 1:10 p.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

Unfortunately, I was only able to catch the last half hour of the radio broadcast but, what caught my attention most was when the female caller shared her experience with her now ex-husband regarding not falling asleep together. Husband on the couch asleep, wife would gently nudge him to go to bed a few times but unsuccessful.

I think it's really essential for couples to continue that physical if not emotional connection of going to bed together.

My husband and I used to go to bed together whether it's on my time or his time, we adjusted accordingly. As of late, (after 2 kids) we find ourselves not adjusting and accommodating each other like we used to. Thus, during the day, we don't work as a team because one would resent the other for not ...simply put, go to bed the previous evening.

Thank you for the interesting program. Although from reading the headliner, it was intended as "Is sharing your bed a war zone?" I felt that both Maureen and Allison covered so much more than just sheet hogging in bed. I really appreciate the caller's comments too because it lets me know that I'm not the only one feeling like couple's therapy or seeking counseling for not sharing a bed together is petty in relations to all things considered in a marriage.

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Avatar for user 'sunshinehull'

sunshinehull | July 30, 2010 at 3:35 p.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

I am Jessica from Hillcrest, with the ex-husband who fell asleep on couch every night, and I wanted to follow up since calling in yesterday.
Thank you, WinterAkita for your considerate words. I feel very affirmed! ;)

I didn't mention that we did try the TV in our room, but it would stay on all night once he fell asleep, and the incessant flicker made me restless. I set the "sleep" time so it would turn off, but he wouldn't ever activate it.
The one thing I didn't try is one of those princess/diva-type eye-masks. But he also sweated profusely (a whole other subject), so I tried my best to look on the bright side of him being on the couch. Honestly, the intimacy suffered.

It was interesting; one of the callers behind me mentioned that her oscillating fan helped drown out her partner's snoring. I now have the inverse of that with my new partner, who sleeps with a very loud fan. I was discouraged at first, wondering if this is just my lot in life with the men I love. But I found the softest earplugs at Target and RiteAid (actually marketed as "for ladies", and hot pink) and the first time I wore them to bed, I slept like a champ!

I was speaking with a newly wedded friend who has lived with her new husband for 12 years, and his evening ritual is to play video games at the foot of the bed, and for her, this is comforting, because he is close at hand.

Thank you, again for taking my call. I love you, Maureen!

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