Sleeping in separate rooms (sometimes horrifically called a “sleep divorce”) is a hot topic these days. Is this normal? Is this okay?
There are two approaches we need to consider in answering this question, depending on where the question is coming from.
If you and your spouse feel like you would benefit from a little more space from each other, but are wondering if sleeping in different rooms makes you weird, that’s one question.
If your spouse has told you they are going to be sleeping in another room, and you are angry/shocked/dismayed by this and have turned to the internet to see if you can prove they are being unreasonable, that’s another question.
So let’s answer each question in turn.
We both want to sleep in separate rooms. Is this normal?
Sure. Go for it.
“Normal” in a marriage is whatever you two jointly agree upon. (See this post for a similar commentary about what’s normal in the bedroom.) If you both want to wear bowties to bed and are happy with that decision, that’s your normal. Whatever other people wear doesn’t really matter. This is your relationship.
There are many good reasons why couples would want to sleep in different rooms. The most obvious one is that someone snores and it disturbs their partner. Sometimes the partner is a terrifically light sleeper and is disturbed by even very quiet noises. Their getting a good night’s sleep means being somewhere out of earshot. (This can be a big deal for people who really need to be alert for dangerous or high-pressure jobs.)
Another common situation is when parents are dealing with a young child who comes to their bed in the middle of the night. This can sometimes be an extended problem to deal with, and if one partner needs to get enough sleep to function, it may make sense to sleep in another room temporarily.
Or what if a couple works together, or are both working from home (a many people are these days), and are in each other’s presence all day long? Sleeping apart may make sense just for a little personal space.
Whatever the motivation, there is no reason you can’t sleep in different rooms if you both feel it would be beneficial. It doesn’t make you a bad couple. It doesn’t mean your marriage or intimate life has to suffer. (You are probably not being intimate when you are asleep.) It just means you need a good night’s sleep.
It may also mean you have to be a little more mindful of spending some time chatting at night, if that’s something you guys enjoy – “pillow talk” is a favorite activity of many couples before going to bed, so you may need to be more intentional about making it happen.
But you don’t need to be embarrassed or ashamed of it if sleeping apart is your preference. Anything you both agree to that isn’t hurting anyone else is a fine choice you can make.
My spouse wants to sleep in a separate room. Is this normal?
The natural corollary to the anything-you-both-agree-to principle is that if one party wants something that the other doesn’t, it’s no longer so straightforward.
As above, there is nothing inherently wrong with sleeping in separate rooms. But if someone is sleeping in another room against the wishes of their partner, well, something is wrong.
A strong relationship depends on good communication. Making unilateral decisions does not fall into this category. Nor, for that matter, does calling someone abnormal or shaming them because they have a preference you don’t share.
Even if you find an article online saying that sleeping in a different room is a sign of a bad marriage or something like that, showing it to your partner is unlikely to improve on the problem at hand. More likely it will elicit defensiveness and resistance.
Instead, an empathic conversation can help you to work through whatever is going on here. Check out this post for extensive guidelines on this. Why do they want to sleep in another room? Why are you against it?
Before making any attempt to decide on a resolution, make sure you have both fully explored each other’s positions and both feel understood. If you’re arguing back and forth about what makes more sense without stopping to truly listen to each other, you will get nowhere. You know this, because you’ve had these arguments before, and indeed, you’ve gotten nowhere.
The point here is not what other people find normal. It’s what you want in your relationship. Talk about that together rather than trying to debate what’s “normal.” (Get in front of a couples counselor if you need help with that conversation.)
You’ll both sleep a lot better after you do.