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  • Posted July 13, 2023

In the Name of Better Slumber, a Third of American Couples Choose 'Sleep Divorce'

More than one-third of coupled Americans who want better sleep are opting for a "sleep divorce."

They're not actually divorcing, but sleeping in another room so that they each sleep better.

"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,"said Dr. Seema Khosla, a pulmonologist in North Dakota and spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).

"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,"Khosla said in an academy news release.

In a recent survey by the AASM, 20% of people said they occasionally slept in another room to accommodate a bed partner; 15% said they did so consistently. About 45% of men reported sleeping in another room occasionally or consistently. About 25% of women did this.

Generational differences emerged, too. For example, 43% of millennials occasionally or consistently sleep in another room to appease a bed partner. About 33% of those in Generation X did this, 28% in Generation 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,"said Khosla. "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."

Not everyone who snores has a sleep illness. However, because snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea, it's important to take it seriously, the academy advised. If the person snoring is also choking, gasping or has silent breathing pauses during sleep, it's a strong indicator of sleep apnea.

Fatigue, daytime sleepiness, unrefreshing sleep, insomnia, morning headaches, waking during the night to go to the bathroom, difficulty concentrating and memory loss can all be signs of sleep apnea. Other indicators may include decreased sexual desire, irritability and difficulty staying awake while watching TV or driving. Excess body weight is a key risk factor for the condition.

The study also found that about one-third of adults go to bed earlier or later than they want to in order to please a partner.

Partners may be happier together with healthy sleep. Studies show those who consistently experience poor sleep are more likely to have conflict with their partners, according to the AASM. Those who do not have enough sleep may be less able to understand or interpret their partners' feelings.

For the survey, the academy questioned 2,005 U.S. adults between March 24 and March 29.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some tips for better sleep.

SOURCE: American Academy of Sleep Medicine, news release, July 10, 2023

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