Want to sleep better? Try cuddling with your partner

Small study suggests couples experience better REM sleep when together

Nearly 77% of Americans say they have lost sleep amid the coronavirus outbreak, but a new study might offer some help.

Researchers at Duke University, and in Germany and Denmark, found that couples who share a bed have better REM — rapid eye movement — sleep than when they sleep apart.

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For the study, young, healthy, heterosexual couples underwent sleep-lab-based monitoring of two sleeping arrangements: individual sleep and co-sleep. Individual and dyadic sleep parameters (i.e., synchronization of sleep stages) were collected, according to the paper published last week in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry.

Compared to sleeping alone, the researchers found that co-sleeping was associated with about 10% more REM sleep, less fragmented REM sleep and longer undisturbed REM fragments.

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In addition to better REM sleep, couples synchronized their sleep patterns. The team determined that the more syncronized the couple’s sleep patterns were, the more satisfied they were in their relationship.

This was a small study, however, recruiting 24 childless, healthy young adults 18 to 29 years old who were part of 12 heterosexual couples. The couples had a history of co-sleeping with the same partner most of the week for at least three months prior to study initiation. The couples devoid of shift work, pregnancy, and medications or disorders known to affect sleep (including depression, addictions and sleep disorders).

Why is this important?

"Research seems to support the notion that REM sleep has an important role in daytime function. It may contribute to learning and memory consolidation, although the research is not conclusive. Specifically, it may help someone to learn a new skill. An example of this procedural memory could be learning how to ride a bicycle. It differs from factual, or semantic memory, such as memorizing a list of vocabulary words," according to Very Well Health.

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