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Does sleeping in separate beds improve overall health?
Point Of View

The Suburban Revolution: Sleeping In Separate Beds For The Sake Of Beauty, Sex, And Aging


February 2, 2017

Just twelve miles from New York City, in Montclair, New Jersey, celebs like Bobbi Brown keep multi-million dollar estates complete with perfectly manicured lawns. If the people in this quaint neighborhood weren’t so well mannered, this would be Real Housewives territory.

But a small uprising is happening in Montclair, in the name of beauty, sex, and wellbeing: separate beds are back. This has nothing to do with troubled marriages or an undercurrent of unhappiness—on the contrary, women who sleep separately are finding increased sex drive, higher quality sleep, and some serious beauty benefits.

Why The Sleep Revolution Is Causing A Separate Bed Revolution

In the wake of her book The Sleep Revolution, Arianna Huffington, along with many other experts, continues to extoll the virtues of sleep on every level. Arianna talks about how sleep is paramount to our health, and thus our youth and beauty, and explains how several studies show that we sleep better when we sleep alone. The obvious question, then, is why aren’t we?

Ok, yes: we can’t all afford to have a separate room available. Economic and space constraints exist. Economic and space constraints aside, we’re primarily prevented from sleeping separately by societal constraints. Go ahead—mention to anyone that you sleep in separate beds, and you’ll automatically get a look of pity. Ooh, your marriage must be in trouble. Is someone cheating?

I applaud Arianna for trying to normalize the idea of sleeping separately to get better quality sleep. She highlights this study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine that shows women sleep better when they are happy in their relationship, whereas men feel better about their relationships after a night of better sleep.

New York City-based couples therapist Lee Crespi told The Atlantic, “There are people who say sleeping apart is not good because it fosters distance, but I think you can argue both ways. People do, in fact, sleep more soundly when they sleep alone.”

First-Person Account of Sleeping Separately in Montclair

So yes, the ladies of Montclair who have taken the plunge into sleeping alone are certainly on to something, and without a doubt they’re reaping the benefits. A friend of mine and resident of Montclair, Maggie (who declined to use her real name to avoid the societal judgement previously mentioned) says, “My husband and I started sleeping in separate bedrooms during our master bathroom renovation. We moved into a guest bedroom with a double bed and I was getting agitated for various reasons, including late-night computer-tapping, overheating, thrashing, and ultimately, snoring.”

To solve the problem, Maggie moved around the corner and into a hard mid-century sofa. She fell asleep on her back (recommended) and arranged her pillows they way she wanted rather than as a barrier to her husband’s snoring.

“I felt born again!!!!” She exclaimed to us. “Naturally, I awoke more rested and my “eleven lines” were less pronounced.”

As for sex, it turns out the bouts of solitude and reflection actually turned into an aphrodisiac. Maggie says, “Our sex life, which has always been good, hasn’t suffered from sleeping separately because we get it whenever we can. I found it sexy that my husband didn’t grouse about the arrangement.”

Beauty Benefits: Numerous

And better sleep certainly leads to better skin, energy, rest, and rejuvenation—there is absolutely a beauty factor. A bad night’s sleep leaves you puffy, with dark circles, stressed and thus more prone to breakouts. Sleep is the crucial time when your body generates HGH (human growth factor), and if you don’t reach these levels of deep sleep, you’re essentially aging yourself.

When we don’t get the proper sleep, our skin becomes imbalanced, dehydrated, red, and prone to breakouts. The moisture levels in skin decline and our skin looks less youthful and has less of a glow.

New research shows that crow’s feet and the like can develop and deepen because you simply aren’t getting enough sleep. In this study at Cleveland’s University Hospitals Case Medical Center, which was funded by Estée Lauder, researchers found that people who were sleep-deprived had more fine lines, less elastic skin, and greater pigment unevenness. They also had a harder time recovering from stressors to the skin such as sunburn, taking about 30% more time to heal than people who slept well through out the night.

Health Impacts

Aside from beauty impacts (did you catch that about her elevens?) bad sleep has a serious impact on health in general. Bad sleep has been shown to increase the likelihood of stroke and heart attacks, and as a result you become more prone to other health problems like diabetes, anxiety, and depression.

“During a good night’s rest, your body works to remove dead blood cells and dead brain cells, and clears the pathways for new synapses to take place so that new blood and brain cells can replace old ones,” says sleep expert Rebecca S. Robbins, M.D., Ph.D., researcher at Cornell University, and author of Sleep for Success!. Your brain also gets rid of 60 percent more toxins when you get the proper amount of sleep, she adds.

Society’s Two Cents

Historically, a combination of economic hard times and superstition—the fear of attack at night, fear of the dark—kept couples sleeping together. Only the super-rich could afford separate bedrooms.

Though moral codes kept couples from sleeping in the same bed on TV for years (or at least, being seen sleeping in the same bed) at the same time it became rare for couples not to sleep together.

Eventually the general consensus became that sleeping together was “healthier”, emotionally speaking. Separate beds inferred a troubled relationship or marriage, or suggested the marriage was not for love. The portrayal of the nuclear family became very important. 

Getting Over The Mental Hump

When I was first handed the topic and someone tried to persuade me that sleeping separately was “better,” I laughed at it. As I thought about it more and more, I realized there were two main issues preventing me from even entertaining this idea: first, the idea that my marriage is flawed somehow if we’re sleeping separately, and second, the idea that I needed the security and comfort of sleeping next to someone.

Most married couples would be horribly embarrassed if anyone knew they didn’t sleep together: it would be seen as a lack of intimacy and a challenge to the “bond.” These days, sleeping apart carries serious connotations of trouble in paradise.

And that makes sense, partly: bedtime, or time spent in bed, is a chance for us to connect. We talk about our days, discuss personal matters, gossip. We’re safe to say whatever we want, because this is our private space. Why would I want to disrupt that?

Those were my two biggest hurdles when it came to sleeping apart. But then something happened over the course of the last few years—call it age? My husband’s snoring has only gotten worse, and both of us get up to use the restroom during the night.

We’ve been together for twelve years. I love him dearly and our marriage is one of the best out there. In our 20s we would sleep soundly, spooning and cuddling and drunk on wine and young love. Emphasis on young.

As you age, the ability to sleep soundly and effectively becomes compromised. Mind you, we’re both just approaching 40; we aren’t 75. But the power of a good night’s sleep is unbeatable. The feeling you get when you wake up truly rested, and how that carries through the rest of your day, impacting every activity and, essentially, the rest of your life—the power of this sleep really does impact my skin, my energy, my sex drive, and my capacity for self-care.

So ask yourself: is the embarrassment that sleeping in separate beds might bring worth forgoing the youthful glow all your friends will be asking about?

As my friend Maggie so aptly puts it, “I have shared with anyone who will listen about the joys of sleeping separately and most of my friends marvel at the arrangement. My younger self would never have thought this could work, but after a few kids, a little peri-menopause, and some heavy bass snoring, things look a little different.”


Having trouble sleeping? Try these tips. Also—here’s the best nighttime routine for maximizing the quality of your sleep


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