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Once Upon Two Mattresses

Couples Who Sleep in Separate Beds is on the Rise


Standing naked at the bedside, my man and I tear back the covers, anticipating ecstasy. We climb between the sheets and press together, limbs entwined. Our eyes close in mutual euphoria and we fall … rapturously … asleep. (That’s right, pervs. Asleep.)

It’s our cherished nightly ritual: tug comforter up to noses, whisper, “Don’t tell them where we are,” and huddle pod-like ‘til morning. Our shared shuteye is a horizontal dance—not a provocative bop but a slumber rhumba. Throughout the night, we flop subconsciously apart and back together, finding ourselves reconnected by morning’s first light: feet stacked, knees overlapping, fingertips resting on shoulders.

Starshine Roshell

So for us, the following news was a rude awakening: Almost a quarter of American couples sleep in separate beds or bedrooms, according to the National Sleep Foundation. And builders claim the demand for separate master suites is on the rise.

I thought his-and-hers bunks were a relic from the I Love Lucy days—and even then, a fake-out to placate easily titillated network execs. Who wants to trot off to dreamland solo when you’ve got a buddy to spoon?

There’s a traditional Armenian wedding toast: “May you grow old on one pillow.” Surely intimacy must suffer when couples sleep in separate beds. I mean, you could schedule erotic mid-house meet-ups, but, frankly, most of us just aren’t that proactive: If we’re rarely prone and alone, it might never happen.

What of pillow talk, too? Bedtime is when couples share those inane bits o’ babble (“So I ran into what’s-his-name today at Pascucci …”) that keep us connected, attuned to one another’s emotional gauges. Could we stay close without a nightly exchange of useless minutiae?

It turns out lots of couples I know (and chances are you know them, too; it’s a small town) hit the sack in entirely different rooms. And for lots of great reasons. Log-sawing is chief among them.

You’re a lot more likely to have good a.m. sex,” argues one friend, “with someone who didn’t just piss you off by keeping you up all night snoring the roof off the house.”

Some couples have opposing sleep habits: “He likes a ton of quilts; I like one sheet,” says a mom who has her own bedroom. “He gets up at 4 a.m. to exercise; I stay up late. Both of us are light sleepers and both of us snore. Why should we follow convention when it means both of us would be sleep-deprived?”

Another hip couple sleeps on two distinct twin mattresses on a king-size frame; it looks “normal” to houseguests, “but under that façade, we have completely different sheets and covers,” she confesses, “which solves the following annoyances: You don’t get kicked, you don’t sweat under excessive piles of wool blankets, and you’re entirely covered by your sheets in the morning.”

Hey, couplehood is complex, so I’ll give kudos to anyone who can make it work, even if it means dual nightlights.

I know a guy who sleeps in a different bed than his wife. In another bedroom. On the opposite side of the house.

It’s the best of both worlds,” he says. “You can still ‘visit’ each other, but have the freedom to keep your own sleep schedules and patterns.”

The real relationship-saver, though? Separate bathrooms.”

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Starshine Roshell is the author of Keep Your Skirt On.

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