You love your partner but sleeping next to them might be a different story. When sharing a bed proves to be more difficult than pleasant, when the lights go off, it can feel like you’re preparing for battle. Whether it’s a turf war over that invisible line in the middle of the bed or doing your best to tune out your partner’s loud snoring or breathing, you may be longing for uninterrupted rest.
Amanda Lacina, RPSGT, sleep expert at UnityPoint Health, explains how partner sleeping impacts your ZZZs, plus her top tips for anyone having difficulty sleeping next to someone else.
Reasons You May Have Difficulty Sleeping in a Shared Bed
If your bed partner does anything to disrupt the bedroom environment – leaves on lamp lights, makes noise, has excessive movement, etc. – it will cause non-restorative, fragmented sleep that can result in chronic sleep deprivation.
Sleep disturbances when sharing a bed are largely related to one of two things: snoring or tossing and turning.
Unsurprisingly, snoring is the major complaint among bed partners. It’s caused by the upper airway partially closing. If snoring is a problem, you or your partner might notice excessive daytime sleepiness, gasping or choking in sleep, waking short of breath or with headaches. If you notice any of these, the likelihood of a sleep-related breathing disorder (SRBD) is high.
Sleeping on your back is nearly always when SRBD is worse. While side sleeping might curb some of the snoring problem, Lacina says being evaluated by a caregiver is important.
“Snoring is considered part of sleep-disordered breathing. Often, it can indicate a harmless narrowing in the airways caused by weight gain, enlarged tonsils or age. Snoring can also be an indicator of a more serious problem, like obstructive sleep apnea,” Lacina says.
Lacina’s top snoring solutions include:
- Positive airway pressure machines (like CPAP, BiPAP, AutoPAP) are, by far, the treatment of choice for SRBD
- Oral devices that advance the jaw (from dentists who specialize in sleep disorders)
- Surgical techniques for opening the upper airway
- Implantable nerve stimulators to open the upper airway or stimulate the diaphragm
- Nasal strips (people with just snoring or mild SRBD)
Tossing and Turning During Sleep
Lacina says it’s rare when someone doesn’t move during the night. But, if occasional movement becomes more frequent, it’s probably worth having a larger conversation about why you’re having trouble sleeping at night.
“Restless legs syndrome, periodic limb movement disorder and sleep bruxism (teeth grinding) are types of sleep-related movement. It’s difficult to determine what causes these disorders. Most of the time, a thorough investigation of a person’s medical history is needed to determine the root. It may be related to a disease history like anxiety and/or stress, chronic medication or substance abuse,” Lacina says.
Just like with snoring, it’s important to seek medical attention if you think you suffer from one of these disorders.
7 Tips to Get Better Sleep While Sharing A Bed
Sleep deprivation is real, so when you or your partner feel like neither of you is getting enough sleep, something’s got to give. If you’re noticing snoring or tossing and turning, it’s time to see an expert. If it’s neither of those, Lacina offers these suggestions to resolve difficulty sleeping while sharing a bed.
- Add white noise. White noise, like a fan or sound machine, can help drown out noises your partner is making. If you try a sound machine, give yourself a little time to adjust to it.
- Be active. Both partners will sleep better with regular exercise, even walking. Being active also reduces stress and anxiety, which can keep you up at night.
- Keep a regular routine. If possible, those sharing a bed should aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time. If your job schedules are different, each person should do their best to keep a consistent schedule to help the body recognize when it’s time to sleep.
- Communicate. Talking to your bed partner about preferences will help you both feel comfortable. Consider discussing room temperature (many sleep experts say 65-68 degrees Fahrenheit is for optimal sleep), what clothes/pajamas make you comfortable and sleep positions you like and dislike.
- Consider a blanket change. A simple change, such as getting your own blanket (or one with a different weight), might make a world of difference.
- Upgrade your mattress. If your partner’s tossing and turning keeps you up, consider a new or larger mattress. If that isn’t in the budget, consider a different mattress pad to help minimize motion transfer.
- Unplug devices. Use the bedroom for sleeping and intimacy only – no TV, phones or other electronics. Devices can be distracting and the light delays sleep onset.
“The biggest signs of sleep trouble are extreme sleepiness or fatigue, memory lapses, mood changes, diminished productivity, insomnia and physical changes, like your bed partner sleeping somewhere else. If any of these sound like you or your partner, it’s time to talk to your doctor,” Lacina says.