Daily Archives: December 6, 2018

Q&A with J: Are Separate Bedrooms Okay?

Today’s question is an interesting one, and a take on separate bedrooms I’d never considered before. Here’s what the wife asks:

Is having separate bedrooms a sin? We have sex several times a day…. I cannot sleep in the same bed as my husband. I wake up numerous times a night. He is hot (temperature) and I wake up sweating. He also snores. … He tells me that separate bedrooms are the fast way to divorce. I’m not leaving. I just want to sleep a full nights sleep in my pajamas and read for 10 minutes before turning off the lamp and going to sleep.

Is sleeping apart a sin?

No, having separate bedrooms is not a sin. 

In various cultures and eras, separate bedrooms were used by husband and wife, including men and women in the Bible. One example is Genesis 31:33: “So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and into Leah’s tent and into the tent of the two female servants, but he found nothing. After he came out of Leah’s tent, he entered Rachel’s tent.” Jacob, Leah, and Rachel all had their own tents, and that setup doesn’t appear to have been unusual.

Will separate beds cause divorce?

Today, the National Sleep Foundation reports that 1 in 4 couples sleeps in separate beds. The divorce rate is about 33% (it’s hard to calculate, but that’s close), and I simply cannot believe that separate-bed couples account for a big percentage of that. So clearly, some couples are sleeping apart and remaining married.

If everything else in the marriage is good, why would not spending time together during the part of the day you’re mostly unconscious cause you to lose your commitment to one another?

What are the benefits of separate beds?

One can make a good case that separate beds actually benefit the marriage and your sex life. By not sharing bed, you avoid issues of snoring, cover-hogging, needing different mattress firmness, noise and light preferences, and falling asleep at opposite times or in unmatched ways. Dodging those interruptions contributes to achieving more and better sleep.

And quality sleep could help you get along better. We all know that feeling of being sleep-deprived and feeling a little snippy with others. But a specific marriage study conducted in 2017 with 43 couples demonstrated that a lack of sleep (less than 7 hours) heightened stress and conflict. If both spouses hadn’t slept enough, arguments became more hostile. Not a good outcome for marriage.

Fatigue is also named as one of the primary reasons why lower-drive spouses don’t feel like engaging in sex or struggle to participate fully. Sex requires some energy, and if you’re wiped out from not sleeping well, you don’t have as much juice to devote to sexual intimacy. As one husband who admitted to not sleeping with his wife said: “We have the most active sex life of any couple I’ve spoken with on the subject. Let’s face it — lack of energy is a far greater threat to an active sex life than lack of opportunity. And we are better rested.”

What are the drawbacks of separate beds?

If you moved into different bedrooms, and sexual intimacy fell off, then yes, it could be a problem. This questioner actually says, “We have sex several times a day.” Several times a day? That’s quite a lot for any marriage. I hardly believe that sleeping separately at night will kill that sex life.

But for many couples, sleeping apart may indeed cause problems. Drawbacks could include less sexual intimacy, not sleeping as well without your spouse, losing physical touch, and missing connection times. Sleeping apart usually reduces the opportunities you have to talk, touch, and make love. You could make that up at other times, but the question is will you?

Some couples who end up in separate beds drift apart in other ways, as they simply spend less time together. And some spouses actually head to another bedroom to avoid communication, affection, or sex—in which case, this is obviously a bad idea.

What about temporary arrangements?

Most couples at one time or another sleep in different beds, due to illness, caring for children, rampant snoring, or even that rare argument that makes you want a little more time to cool off. 

If the situation is temporary, it’s not likely to change your overall marriage. But it’s worth discussing how it might affect each of you and looking for ways to minimize any negative consequences.

What about this specific situation?

Back to the original question, it’s certainly not a sin to sleep in separate beds. It strikes me that all of your reasons for wanting to do so are reasonable—your desire to wind down through reading, his snoring, your sweating, and your waking up several times a night. You’re not dodging him or sex, just trying to get a good night’s sleep.

First, try addressing the issues that get in the way of you getting sleep while in the same bed. But if that doesn’t work, you could snuggle up and stay until your husband falls asleep, head to the other bedroom. Then you can both get the rest you need.

Intimacy Revealed Ad

Sources:  “Lack of Sleep Fuels Harmful Inflammatory Response to Marital Stress.” Newswise = Smart News Connection. Accessed December 04, 2018. https://www.newswise.com/articles/view/676974/; 
“My Wife and I Sleep in Separate Bedrooms. Our Marriage (and Sex Life) Have Never Been Better.” Los Angeles Times. March 26, 2018. Accessed December 05, 2018. https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-austin-separate-bedrooms-20180326-story.html.