More than a third of U.S. couples choose ‘sleep divorce,’ survey finds

Sharing a bed with someone can be calming and loving — or it can be a nightmare. If your partner snores or hogs the covers or gets up often during the night, it can affect your sleep and your health.

That may be why more than a third of U.S. adults who responded to an American Academy of Sleep Medicine survey said they’ve opted for a “sleep divorce,” which is sometimes or consistently sleeping in a room separate from their partner.

“We know that poor sleep can worsen your mood, and those who are sleep deprived are more likely to argue with their partners. There may be some resentment toward the person causing the sleep disruption which can negatively impact relationships,” Dr. Seema Khosla, pulmonologist and spokesperson for the AASM, told MedicalXpress. “Getting a good night’s sleep is important for both health and happiness, so it’s no surprise that some couples choose to sleep apart for their overall well-being.”

According to the survey, 45% of men said they occasionally or consistently sleep in another room, compared with just 25% of women. In addition, nearly half, or 43%, of millennials have sleep divorced, followed by 33% of Gen X, 28% of Gen Z and 22% of baby boomers.

“Although the term ‘sleep divorce’ seems harsh, it really just means that people are prioritizing sleep and moving into a separate room at night when needed,” Khosla said. “However, if it is one partner’s loud snoring that is leading to separate sleep spaces, then you should encourage that partner to talk to a doctor about obstructive sleep apnea. This applies to both men and women who may snore.”

Having your sleep disrupted on a regular basis isn’t just harmful to your health, though. It also can damage your relationship.

A 2017 study found that people “who slept fewer hours in the past two nights had higher inflammatory responses following marital conflict than those who slept more.”

A February study suggested lack of sleep can decrease a person’s ability to experience empathy, meaning they might misunderstand or misinterpret their partner’s feelings.

“The effects of sleeping in separate rooms can be extremely positive for a relationship, extremely negative for a relationship, or anything in between,” Manhattan psychologist Dr. Joseph Cilona told USA Today in 2021.

Ultimately, he said, it depends on the couple’s initial reason for desiring separate sleeping spots.