What to Do If You Can’t Commit to “Sleep Divorce”
It's the Scandinavian sleeping hack you never knew you needed
Over the last few years, relationship experts have extolled the benefits of “sleep divorce,” encouraging significant others to sleep in different rooms in the name of more restful, sustainable slumber.
It’s a compelling pitch for couples beleaguered by years of unwelcome snores and smells from their counterparts. The movement now has millions of acolytes, thanks to destigmatization efforts from psychologists and celebrities alike. As they’ve pitched (correctly): the arrangement isn’t shameful, or irregular, or a sign of impending doom for one’s relationship. The point of sleeping apart, in fact, is to grow closer together during the all-important waking hours.
Still, it’s understandable that for some
traditionalists romantics, the idea is a non-starter — no matter how disruptive or dire sleeping with their partner may be. When I pitched it to a friend recently, whose parents have evidently complained about restless nights in recent months, he offered a rueful chuckle in return. His dad has already weighed in on sleep divorce: “I will never abandon that woman.” (His wife of 30 years.)
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Still, there’s a midway between sleeping on top of each other and sleeping across the hallway. The “Scandinavian sleep method” calls for dressing with the bed with separate comforters. (Or top sheets, or covers, or whatever you want to call them.) The practice, popular in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, eliminates most couples’ most contentious nighttime trigger: the scramble for duvet domination.
But it does more than that — it creates a low-stakes logistical separation, in cocooning partners on their own sides of the bed, which allows space for a philosophical reset. In your own comforter, you can have your own night’s sleep. It’s harder to blame wake-ups on your partner at breakfast the next morning.
And taking that initial step towards a cover conversation, could lead to other, jointly-approved optimizations in your wind-down routine: perhaps brown noise to mask snores? A truce on thermoregulation preferences? Would the “reader” half be willing to invest in a softer book light? And might a shared alarm (with a not-psychotic tone) be in everyone’s future?
Sleep divorce has been a revelation for some. That’s a good thing. But for others, especially those hand-holding seniors who still have a standing date on Fridays, it’s totally understandable that splitting beds feels like waving the white flag. Let the Scandinavian method be an excuse to buy a soft new comforter, and open up a larger discussion on sleep routines that work best for the couple as a whole.
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