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Do You Need a Sleep Divorce to Reignite Romance?

Baptist Health Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute

The newly coined term “sleep divorce” does not reflect what might be happening in committed relationship. And it has nothing to do with romance and intimacy — or the lack thereof.


Instead, sleep divorce refers to the increasingly common practice of partners sleeping in separate beds, or even separate rooms, so they can get a good night’s rest.


“It is happening, and it’s prevalent,” says Harneet Walia, M.D., chief of Clinical Transformation at Baptist Health Medical Group. “It does work in the sense that some people are able to sleep soundly and get more restful sleep because their partner sleep habits are not disrupting them.”


How Common Is It?

Whether it’s to avoid partners who toss and turn all night, steal the blankets or rattle the room with loud snoring, many Americans are opting for alternate sleeping arrangements to help them improve their sleep.



Harneet Walia, M.D., chief of Clinical Transformation at Baptist Health Medical Group


According to a recent survey by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, more than one-third of people say they occasionally or consistently sleep in another room to accommodate a bed partner. The practice is certainly not new, although this strategy may be gaining popularity as a result of an awakening about the impact of sleep on health.


Research has shown that people who do not sleep enough or wake up often during the night have a higher risk of chronic health problems such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, dementia and reduced immune function. In the short term, not getting enough sleep can affect alertness, cognitive function and mood.


“Sleep plays an absolutely vital role in good health and well-being,” Dr. Walia says. In fact, the American Heart Association now includes getting regular sleep of 7 to 9 hours a night for adults on its list of essential components for promoting good health.


Can Separate Sleeping Help a Relationship?

It may be called “sleep divorce,” but for many couples, opting to sleep apart can actually strengthen their partnership.


While it paints a dramatic picture of a trouble-in-paradise situation, the motives behind sleeping apart are usually based on practical day-to-day functioning, not the need for emotional distance.


“No one should feel bad or guilty about needing to sleep in a separate bed,” Dr. Walia says. “Getting enough sleep is important for our health.”


In some relationships, partners may have distinct sleep habits that directly affect the other’s quality of sleep. Common issues include loud snoring, different sleep schedules, restlessness and sleep apnea.


It’s no secret that poor sleep can poison a person’s mood. Also, unconscious resentment may fester toward the partner causing the sleep disruption.


As a result, sleep deprivation can negatively impact relationships, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Studies have shown that those who consistently experience poor sleep are more likely to engage in conflict with their partners and that sleep loss decreases empathetic accuracy, making it more likely partners misunderstand or misinterpret each other’s feelings.


Some couples choose to sleep separately only when they have to work the next day. When effort is invested to maintain connection, even a limited a sleep divorce may help improve relationships, some studies have found.


“Research indicates that when we are well rested, not only are we taking care of our health, but we communicate better and interact better,” Dr. Walia says.


Important Consideration

Dr. Walia is uncertain if sleeping apart is more common, or if more people today are simply more willing to admit to alternate sleeping arrangements, especially since a number of celebrities have revealed it’s a part of their routine.


However, Dr. Walia does note that some of the disruptive sleep characteristics that would lead one partner to seek rest elsewhere may be a sign the other partner has a sleep disorder that requires treatment.


For example, snoring is a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea, a serious condition in which the airway collapses, interrupting oxygen. Tossing and turning may be the result of restless leg syndrome, a neurologic condition. Other treatable sleep disorders include insomnia, a common condition involving a difficulty in either falling or staying asleep; sleep irregularity, in which sleep patterns are inconsistent; and circadian rhythm disorders, in which the body’s clock does not follow normal day-and-night patterns.


Always at the vanguard of innovation, Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute has long emphasized the importance of sleep. A part of Baptist Health Heart & Vascular Care, it is one of the few places in the country where sleep medicine is included as part of its comprehensive cardiac program, according to Dr. Walia.


“If it’s to the point that you need a sleep divorce, then that is the opportunity to encourage your partner to be evaluated,” Dr. Walia says. “The point is that maybe your partner should be assessed and treated.”  

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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