A [Bed]Room of One’s Own: Why I Sleep Alone

I’m coming out of the closet. Finally, I am ready to share my dirty little secret with you — My mate and I sleep in separate bedrooms… and I like it that way! Would I love to snuggle up at night next to my Monsieur, fall gently into a blissful dreamworld and wake up 8 hours later resplendent and gazing deeply into his big heavy-lidded morning eyes? Yes, yes I would. Sadly, that is unlikely to ever happen.

I am a notoriously light sleeper. When I visit New York, the city that never sleeps, I can’t bloody sleep either. I do [heart] NY, but the constant street noise and hotel guests coming in and out at all hours make for wakeful nights. In every apartment I have ever lived, there has been some issue with sound. At times, I was able to adapt; other situations made me crazy and I had to move. Sleep deprivation IS a form of torture.

Historically, separate rooms where the norm for the aristocracy. Where separate beds common for the middle class in the early 20th century?

Historically, separate rooms were the norm for the aristocracy. Were separate beds common for the middle class in the early 20th century?

Contrary to what you may think, I do not suffer from insomnia. I have no trouble falling and staying asleep, but I do have trouble not being awakened by the following: door slamming, sirens, snow plows, loud talking, snoring, movement of the bed, meowing, a thumping bass. Some people have come up with helpful solutions for me, like hey why don’t you just wear earplugs? Aaaaarg. As if I don’t wear earplugs! (This is up there with the nurse practitioner who suggested Tylenol for my chronic headaches.) For years, I also slept with the fan on in my room (yes to white noise).

So back to life as part of a couple. As long as the person who shares my bed sleeps in a still, silent manner and doesn’t touch me, I have no problems. How many men do you know fit that description? Yeah, exactly.

When we first met, I tried. I wanted so badly to be able to spend the night in the same bed as my lover, perhaps having absorbed a strange notion that if he was The One, my body would magically adapt to his and our nights would be heavenly. We attempted it, repeatedly. Usually, I would move to the spare bed halfway through the night in the hopes of at least getting 3 or 4 hours in. Things escalated to where he wouldn’t sleep well either because he was worried about how I was sleeping. There were many grumpy angry mornings at his home. When we gave up and went to separate rooms, the anxiety went away and things got way more pleasant.

Oh, and the new bed solution? Didn’t work. A king sized bed doesn’t solve anything if one person always moves in to cuddle, while the other person needs a space halo in order to sleep. And then there was the “noise” (is it just me or are people who snore always insulted/incredulous when you tell them they snore?).

So, when we decided that we wanted to spend our lives together living in the same house, separate bedrooms was on the must-have list (also, my own bathroom… with a big tub!). I am aware that visitors to our home may find our arrangement odd. They may even jump to conclusions about our sex life, to which I would answer that nothing kills the mood more that sleep deprivation and that you can’t actually make love while sleeping so the two things are quite unrelated.

My girly room with fabulously girly wallpaper.

My girly room with fabulously girly wallpaper (and Shmoo, the fearless lioness).

According to an article in The Atlantic, there are many reasons couples share a bed, none of which have to do with actual sleep. Cuddling, whispering together in the dark, laughing about silly things, these are the wonderful bonding experiences that happen when you sleep in the same bed… and also when you don’t. Getting up and scurrying to the next bedroom over when you’re ready to zonk out is quite easy. Crazy, right?

Here is what I love about having my own bedroom:

  • Decor: My room is 100% girly. He was wonderful to put up my pink flowered wallpaper and I love him all the more for it. (And the closet is all my own, as is any mess found in the room.)
  • Temperature: He turns his thermostat off at night even in the depth of winter. I keep mine at 16 C, plus I’ve got the electric blanket going.
  • Bed times: I like to read in bed before going to sleep while he is more of an early to bed, early to rise type. So, after I say “good night” and leave his room, I read with the bedside lamp on and my kitty curled up in my lap. In the morning, he gets up, makes coffee, reads his paper online, while I continue to snooze undisturbed.
  • Emergency calls: Le Monsieur is responsible for fixing problems in some downtown buildings so, on occasion, his cell phone rings in the middle of the night and he has to go deal with a flood or other emergency. Sometimes I hear it, but usually I don’t. Zzzzz.
  • Kittens: I have had my cat, Shmoo, for 9 years and we have a sleep groove. She sleeps at my feet and normally doesn’t move until I get up. Amazingly, one of our other cats, the youngest, has started to sleep on my bed occasionally too without problem. But the 3rd cat, the one who is 100% his, likes to paddle all over and sink her pointy little feet in repeatedly to get comfy. I have no patience for this.
  • Napping options: Once in a while, a miraculous thing happens — we fall asleep together. Having my own bedroom doesn’t mean that we never sleep in the same bed. It’s just that we don’t have too. Hurrah.
Shmoo and Kali know better than to wake me up (result: immediate banishment from the bedroom)

Shmoo (rear), and occasionally Kali, sleep at my feet and know that waking me will result in swift banishment from the bedroom.

Really, there is no shame in having separate bedrooms. I personally know two couples, one young, one older, who also have this arrangement. And it seems people with newborns come up with all kinds of creative sleeping arrangements so that one parent gets to sleep at least some of the time. According to a video posted by The Atlantic, 30 to 40 % of Canadians have separate sleeping quarters. That is huge!

Science tells us that sleeping together results in lower quality sleep. So I say, stop being a slave to a culture that tells you your love is lesser if you sleep alone! Resist the urge to try and prove something to yourself and to the world, you have a right to your own bedroom! Rejoice, my well-rested comrade.

Comments

  1. Brenda! Kudos to you for sharing this about yourself and Kudos that it works well 🙂 I cannot judge, as I am also a very light sleeper (have always been). Again, like you, I don’t usually have trouble falling asleep but anything will wake me up. Dare I say that I can’t even use ear plugs BECAUSE the white noise would make it unbearable? Sometimes I find myself waking up without knowing why, until I hear what it was that did it. It is also for this reason why the door to our bedroom must me closed at sleeping time and why one of my cats must be put in his own room at night. I do share a Queen sized bed with my husband but there are times (especially now that we are not in our 20’s) that his snoring will drive me mad. He has started trying nasal strips. He never used to snore. That being said, my sleeping habits are also very specific and I will not change them for my comfort, just because I am sharing the same mattress with him. For instance, I also love sleeping in a warm bedroom, where he feels he is on fire all the time. I absolutely do NOT share my comforter with him: I need it to be wrapped around and under me to get warmth. We don’t cuddle before going to bed—I need my own space to feel comfortable and so does he. Sometimes, I find he is too close and push him away! We do seem to manage and get good night sleeps but occasionally, if he or I have a really bad cold, the coughing and blowing of noses would make it unbearable for the other, so he would go to the spare room and sleep there. Ever since I had known my in-laws, they also slept in separate bedrooms precisely because my mother-in-law could not stand the noises and movements her husband would make. Growing up, my grandparents slept in separate bedrooms too. As a kid, I did think it was weird but now, I think it is smart! I am glad that I don’t have to defend my reasons for they way I sleep. It is an important aspect of our lives. Just because I don’t share the sheets with my husband and like my space, doesn’t make me love him less. I am happy you have both found common ground 🙂

    • When I share this with others, I am surprised at how many people, women especially, put up with poor sleep when the remedy is so simple. Though I do understand that having someone there provides a feeling of safety, it’s not worth it to me to lose sleep. When we travel, I have sleeping pills and we try to get 2 beds, if not 2 rooms. I think that throughout history, people who could afford to have separate rooms did, but of course marriage wasn’t always based on love back then. I am baffled by those who live in “tiny houses”; I would go mad. But I was an only child and single for most of my adult life — to each their own, as you say.

  2. Thank you so for writing about this! The social pressure around this is surprising!

  3. bibliomama2 says:

    My mother complains often that she can’t sleep when my dad is sick or snoring. They have a beautifully made up guest room with a double bed in it RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO THEIR ROOM. When I suggest she use it, she looks at me like I’ve told her she should advertise for sex with strangers. Sigh.

    • Ah yes, it probably feels safe to do what she’s always done. But sleeping well feels so much more amazing! I want to tell the women of the world- you don’t have to suffer (as long as you have a spare bedroom, heh).

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