How well do you do when your sleep situation changes? Learn from a sleep coach’s story: how to adapt to a temporary “sleep divorce.”
Sleep Divorce is “In”
More and more couples are making the choice to sleep apart. Sometimes that’s in separate beds in the same room. Other times—especially in the case of noise—it’s in separate beds in separate rooms.
More people are talking about sleep divorce as a way to improve their sleep. It’s an “in” fashion, so to speak.
I have to be honest, I don’t love the term “sleep divorce.” Once again, it’s a negative-sounding label for something that is often a highly beneficial and positive experience for both partners. When you and your partner each sleep better, your relationship is likely to improve, not worsen!
Sleep Divorce Can Be Temporary
Fear of sleep divorce can come from the idea that it’s a permanent situation. This distorted, all-or-nothing thinking can prevent you from experimenting with something new. It can also prevent you from getting through a rough patch.
For example, mid-way during the pandemic, my partner had to travel to Texas for work.
Since I manage a chronic illness, we have been extremely careful. His trip would be the highest risk thing we’ve done.
We made a plan for what would happen when he returned, & it’s a good thing. Turns out he’d spent most of his visit working in a hotel room with a group of people. And while he was gone, my (also super careful) mom tested positive for COVID-19! 😣
We decided that when he returned, we’d mask in common areas of the house, & he’d test daily. We could always give up this dance whenever we felt comfortable.
Of course, sleeping in N95 masks isn’t an option. It was easiest if he slept in the bedroom & I in my office on the pullout.
Sleep Divorce is an Opportunity to Learn & Adapt
Our temporary sleep divorce meant I had to get used to a new sleep situation. And it involved figuring out a few things:
- Is the temperature better with some windows open, or is that too cold? How many blankets do I need? (The weather here seemed to nosedive from hot summer to real autumn almost overnight!)
- Do I let the cats in or out? (The pullout is small!)
- How do I preserve some pre-bed sofa time—e.g. for reading or watching TV?
Here’s a photo of what eventually happened.
The pullout cushion became a floor sofa, & true to form, the cat got the bed (but only when I wasn’t sleeping). Marlow (my black kitty) also extracted several missing toys from underneath–including his blue fish & stuffed avocado. 😂
I’ll be honest–the first night, when my partner came home super late, I was awake in expectation. The second night, I couldn’t get the temperature right. While it was better than the first, my sleep still wasn’t great. But by the third night, I was sleeping well again.
Now you might think, who cares? This is temporary & you chose to do it. Well, next year we’re planning to renovate our upstairs bathroom. Which likely means me (also choosing) to sleep downstairs for what might be months. This experience is teaching me something.
When I coach someone 1-1, one of my goals is to help them “future proof” their sleep.
Meaning, shit happens! There are times in your life where you might have to sleep somewhere (or some way) that’s unfamiliar.
That might be because of a business or leisure trip; it might be because you’re taking care of someone. Or maybe something’s going on in your house.
How do you adapt? How do you react when you have a transitionary rough night (or two or three)?
As I talk about in my book, sleep isn’t something you perfect. It’s something you work with. When you’re not sleeping as you’d like to be, it’s easy to get frustrated. And if you’ve struggled with your sleep in the past, you might worry that a situation you find yourself in now will slide you back into a bad pattern.
It’s normal to need some time to adapt. It doesn’t mean your sleep is broken, nor do you need to assume “it’s all downhill” from here!
You can always do something, and then get curious about whether it’s moving you in the right direction. And when you learn what works, you can remember & try it out the next time you find yourself in a disruptive sleep situation. Sleep divorce is no different.
How well are you sleeping these days? Could sleep divorce be a valuable experiment?