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. 

24 thoughts on “Q&A with J: Are Separate Bedrooms Okay?

  1. Jason@SongSix3

    I am definitely NOT a fan of married couples sleeping in separate bedrooms, except in the most extreme medical situations. In many of the couples I have mentored (who came to me because of the terrible state of their marriage), I learned that they slept in separate beds – and even separate bedrooms. One of the first things I suggested was getting them both back in the same bed. And in almost every one of those cases, they reported feeling CONNECTED again. I used to travel a lot for my job, and I sleep very badly when my wife isn’t beside me. It is a great comfort to me in the middle of the night to reach out a foot and feel her there, or have her do the same. I realize that not everyone is the same, and that’s fine. This has just been my own experience with my own marriage, and those I have worked with.

    Reply
  2. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    We’ve slept in separate bedrooms for over ten years (well, I don’t have a bedroom; we have a sanctuary for abandoned and abused dogs, and I sleep in the kennel, on a sofa).

    Barb needed her own bed because she injured her back in a car accident, and sharing a bed is just painful. And she needed her own room because she needs it warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer than I can tolerate, and aside from that she needs about twice as much sleep as I do.

    It’s certainly reduced physical and emotional closeness, but this is not a bad thing, because she’s got to learn to distance herself and prepare to move on while I am dying. Not having the physical immediacy, even without sex, makes that easier.

    For me, it’s been good because there’s no venue for or temptation to ‘pillow-talk confessionals’ of fear and despair during this cancer journey. There may be a downside in that I’ve become rather unpleasantly hard, to most people, but I can better stay engaged and effective in life without a lot of sentiment (especially SELF-sentiment).

    I really wouldn’t recommend this route to anyone, not for something to do deliberately, because the price for everyone concerned is pretty steep. But if a goat ate your diamond, sometimes you’ll find it again in his…uh, well, you know.

    And it’s still a diamond, and I love my wife with all my heart.

    Reply
  3. Songs of the Believers

    It depends on the circumstances but I think your point of view here is very reasonable, J. I think the specific case laid out, specifically. I bet a lot of men and women who maybe are the higher drive spouse would love to have sex “several times a day” even if it meant they’re sleeping separately sometimes! Good trade, if you ask me!

    Reply
  4. B

    When things were at their worst with my husband and I (meaning, when he was rejecting me sexually more often than not) I took to sleeping on the couch. I had to for my own sanity. He didn’t like it, he said he slept better when I was in the bed. I found that incredibly selfish.
    It was very, very hard for me to have all of that pent up sexual energy, to be so attracted to him, and to have to lay beside him knowing there was no hope of anything romantic happening between us. It was torturous! If I made a “move” and he pushed me away, I would just get up and go out to the couch, where I felt I must’ve belonged. To my way of thinking, if he didn’t want me, why would he want me there at all. And to make matters worse, he often liked to “cuddle”! When you want to be intimate with your spouse, and they are not interested in you that way, but they want to cuddle you – I think that is just downright cruel! Because his touching me, even to cuddle, would send my mind into overdrive. Wanting, hoping, wondering if tonight was the night he might finally want me again, or find me attractive enough, or love me as a wife and not just as a “buddy”. It was just simply awful. It was so much easier to just sleep on the couch. Plus he likes the TV on and I can’t sleep with the TV on. Since he gets up earlier and makes all the money, it only seemed fair to me that he get the better bed and a good night’s sleep.
    To this day, I’m not sure why my sleeping on the couch bothered him.
    Fast forward to today, and things are a lot better. We have sex more often and he seems a willing participant. He even initiates once in a while (which he almost never did before). So I do sleep in the bed most nights, and he does seem happier about that. I still think it’s a little weird. He goes to bed way earlier than I do, so he puts the TV on and I turn it off when I go to bed. He has also gotten a CPAP machine which alleviated his snoring and a lot of his restlessness, so we can both sleep a little better.

    Reply
  5. Rachael

    I’m an extremely light sleeper, so my husband will move to the couch if his snoring keeps me awake. I don’t really want him to do this though, so I now sleep with white noise and ear plugs if I need them. That’s made huge difference for us! The only thing is he has to listen for the little one on the baby monitor 🙂

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    For us, separate bedrooms would not work. Sex only occurs in our bedroom (not my choice). So our sex life would become completely non-existent. I think this would be true for most Christian couples.

    Reply
  7. Lynn

    I read an excerpt from a book published in 1911 by a doctor who said decent married people sleep in separate rooms because otherwise they’d be inflamed with lust all the time. LOL!

    Sometimes either I or my husband have gone down to the couch due to insomnia, back pain, etc. And the temperature issue was a tough one for me to get used to, also. However, if we slept separately, I would have missed waking up this morning, looking at my sleeping man, holding his hand, and praying for his health and happiness.

    I don’t think there’s anything sinful about separate rooms. However, I noticed one thing about the message you received: ‘we have sex several times a day’ and ‘I’d like to sleep in my pajamas…’ I wonder if she’d like her husband to back off a bit.

    Reply
  8. Ashley

    Interesting post, and I’m really glad you wrote about this. I’m divorced, and I’ve healed enough that sometimes I hope to marry again. But I sleep SO MUCH better alone. Sometimes I think I shouldn’t remarry just because of that!

    Reply
  9. Mark

    Nice topic as usual.

    If the couple are mentally connected and in love with one another, I think ultimately it is a decision they can only make for themselves.

    I’m pretty needy, so I have to have my wife in my arms and cuddle with. She does have a slight case of sleep apnea so she has on occasion has awakened me in the middle of the night, but even so, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at all if she wasn’t there.

    Reply
  10. Lp

    I would say no not a sin. But I think it’s just completely wrong. Unless for medical reasons but it can’t think of 1.
    My wife move to the other bedroom 2 1/2 years ago and we’ve not had sex in 2 years 3 months now. No kissing and very few hugs we are housemates not husband and wife.
    But it has the potential to lead to a sinful life. Create bitterness jealousy and many other harsh feelings.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      So your story clearly falls in the drawbacks category. Was her move to another bedroom simply about sleep? It doesn’t seem like it. And that is wrong. Not so much the separate beds, but separate lives represented by separate beds. I’m sorry you’re going through that. Praying for her awakening.

      Reply
  11. Anonymous

    Thank you for the prayers always needed.
    She doesn’t say why. But over a year ago I made a move on her kissing the back of her neck I thought she was in to this i reached around for a breasts….
    Wow was I wrong I was told I was treating her like a hooker. I’ve not tried anything again. I’ve been told that Jesus’s will meet all my needs.
    From there I have drifted away from her we both have.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Oh my goodness, the “Jesus will meet all your needs” argument! Ugh. Does she believe that if you stop working to bring in an income, no longer converse with her, or don’t clean after yourself around the house, you can say, “Don’t worry, honey. Jesus will meet all your needs.” She’s using that as a defense mechanism, but I wonder what she’s defending against. Why does she equate sex in marriage with being treated “like a hooker”? What in her background has affected her in this way? I would want to know why the thought of sex makes her hurt inside.

      Reply
      1. E

        J, that last sentence made me feel like crying! Yes! If your spouse has a severe aversion to sex, find out why. Help them to heal. Don’t just assume that it is about you. Love your spouse, the way Jesus loved people. Did Jesus let people wallow in their sin, or their pain? No! He worked hard to heal people, and to put their relationships right (especially the all important relationship with God).

        Reply
      2. Anonymous

        I would love to know also. The only thing she will tell me is she has gained to much weight and thinks she looks disgusting. She will not go to counseling or even talk to our Pastors wife.
        I have no idea what to do from here.

        Reply
  12. Wayne

    I have to admit, I had not considered the aspect of separate beds or bedrooms as something that could be beneficial. Matter of fact, I caught myself going straight to the comments before backing up and actually *reading* the blog itself. (light palm to forehead bash!) And this couple has sex several times a day?? I don’t see a problem, though I commend the honesty and self-evaluation here.

    My wife and I have never, once, slept in separate beds, except of course when one of us is out of town. I wonder at her response at the suggestion? I strongly tend to think she’d be hurt or bothered by the idea, but if I approached it carefully, and in the right way – with much prayer, of course – it could be a positive, even a turning point. The timing and availability would have to be right for us, in terms of logistics and space. We’re a somewhat older couple, and our physical intimacy has always been all-on or all-off, with dry seasons increasing in length. The idea of more rest and refreshment from better sleep, and an occasional if slight change of scene could help, just as some have suggested.

    Hmm, more to chew on than I might have expected. Even if we never end up doing that, I always believe it’s good to have options. This is encouraging.

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  13. L

    My wife and I happily followed the Calvinist teaching that sex enhances the marital pair bond, and so continued at honeymoon levels (without pajamas) for over 40 years. Unfortunately, as we approach three score and ten, I am in constant pain from back and joint problems, and my tossing and turning is interfering with her sleep, so much as we love sleeping together we are wondering whether twin beds might be better. IMHO, the question ought to be what will make one’s spouse happiest.

    Reply
  14. Rrm

    We’re back in the same bed. Less sleep for me. Less sex. No, neither of us has jobs right now. I take care of my mom part time, he’s actively looking for work in his field. Was laid off a few years ago. Me sleeping in the other room isn’t an option to him. I think the sex multiple times a day was to get me back in bed. We were really doing well then. We’d have sex. Go get a project around the house done. Have sex, go to mom’s and help there. Have sex, go to the store. Have sex, say goodnight and go to separate beds. Now, the stress of Christmas with no job, me still sick (did I mention I had pneumonia and a chronic sinus infection), and dealing daily with my mom who has Alzheimer’s is really affecting me. I got up at 6 to get her to the doctor. And now its 10:20 and we’re still not headed to bed. Maybe if I moved out and back to the other bedroom….but not until Christmas is over….or he gets a job.

    Reply

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