Snoring, duvet-hogging and different bed times – these incompatible night-time habits can create poor sleep chemistry and drive couples apart, even on Valentine’s Day, supposedly the most romantic time of the year.
While latest research shows that over half of us are happily snuggling up with our other halves*, almost one-third of us are getting a poor night’s sleep with partner disturbance being one of the top three reasons stated**.
But, before taking refuge in the spare room or on the sofa to get some shut-eye, it’s worth considering all the health benefits of cosying up with your partner, says Lisa Artis of The Sleep Council, an impartial, advisory organisation that raises the awareness of the importance of a good night’s sleep to health and wellbeing.
Said Lisa: “Sleeping with your partner can benefit your health and increase the odds of having a longer lifespan. This is because people tend to feel more secure and safe when in a relationship, decreasing the levels of stress hormones and increasing oxytocin, the love hormone – leading to less interrupted sleep***.
“However, around 50% of sleep disturbance** is caused by sharing a bed. So, if you find your sleep is disrupted on a regular basis, there are various solutions to consider before resorting to separate beds.”
Sleep guru Lisa’s top tips for perfect sleep chemistry with your Valentine:
• Size matters: buy as big a bed as budget and room size allow so you are less likely to disturb your partner. You should be able to lie side by side, with your arms behind your head and your elbows out, without touching. Your bed should also be 4-6in (10-15cm) longer than the tallest partner. Width-wise, two people sharing a standard double size bed (4’6” or 135cms) have only as much personal sleeping space as a baby in a cot!
• Seven-year hitch: unintended rolling together can be caused by too small a bed – or a mattress that’s past its best. Replace your bed at least every seven years and, if you’d be embarrassed if your neighbour saw your mattress, it’s a sure sign you need to consider getting a new one. Zip-and-link beds allow each partner different levels of mattress support.
• Tackle snoring: snoring has many causes: age, being overweight or out of shape, the way you’re built, nasal and sinus problems, alcohol, smoking and medications and your sleep posture. If you suspect a sleep disorder such as sleep apnoea, seek medical help. Otherwise, while you can’t do anything about growing older, lifestyle changes, new bedtime routines, throat exercises and some oral devices can all help to prevent snoring. Ear-plugs can also help block out a noisy partner.
• Combat stress: almost half of Britons say that stress or worry keeps them awake at night. Make bedtime the place to switch off and relax with these positive steps: create a restful environment, turn off electronic gadgets and gizmos, meditate, set room temperature to around 16-18°C (60-65°F), listen to some soothing sounds, get a new bed and get into a good bedtime routine.
• Get together: try to go to bed with your partner at the same time at least three nights a week. Different body clocks mean many couples tuck up at different times – alarm bells should sound if that happens every night.
• Double-up the duvets: where duvet-hogging is an issue, single duvets can work wonders! Separate duvets are also handy for bed sharers who have different temperature requirements. Individual duvets with a tog rating suited to each partner will put an end to the ‘too warm, too cold’ debate.
*The Sleep Council’s monthly online poll (March 2017)
** The Sleep Council’s updated Great British Bedtime Report, March 2017
***Sleeping next to someone helps lower the stress hormone cortisol. Prolonged periods of elevated cortisol has been linked with an increase in cytokines – proteins involved in inflammation that can trigger heart disease, depression and auto-immune disorders. Sharing a bed is also thought to boost levels of the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin, known to induce bonding feelings. (Researchers from University of Pittsburgh and scientists at Malmo University Hospital in Sweden, April 2012)