Sleeping in Separate Beds Isn't a Bad Thing

communication intimacy
A women sitting alone in her bed looking at her phone. The room is dim and it appears she is not sleeping with her parnter.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a certain Instagram Reel I shared now has over 11 million views. Here’s why:


We seem to have a much harder time sharing honestly about our romantic relationships than we do our experiences with parenthood or friendship, often because of shame. Shame seeps in when we believe our love should follow a specific set of rules or expectations, but falls short. It’s the message that somehow we are bad, different, or unworthy. So when someone on the internet gives us permission to release shame about a certain aspect of our relationship, people breathe a collective sigh of relief.


I’ve hidden the lead a bit, but this popular reel is about:


Sleep divorce. (Cue scary music)

What is Sleep Divorce?


This not-so-great term is often used to describe spouses who sleep in separate beds, insinuating that they are heading for the family lawyer’s office. It’s safe to say “sleep divorce” is a pretty misleading label, considering it’s the norm for 1 out of 4 couples (according to a National Sleep Foundation poll).


The stigma surrounding sleeping in separate bedrooms is one full of assumptions.

  • This couple must have gotten in a fight
  • They are no longer physically intimate
  • They’ve given up on a happy marriage


Admittedly, many of us grow up to think that if our parents or friends’ parents are sleeping in separate beds, there must be problems in their relationship. 


When in reality,

  • One party snores, so the other loses meaningful sleep
  • They have a child who needs middle-of-the-night attention
  • Their work schedules misalign, so alarms go off at vastly different times
  • There are illnesses in the house and they want to try to stay healthy and fight a cold


Valuing sleep is not something worthy of shame. In fact, sleep is a core basic need that necessitates the ability to be able to harness curiosity, compassion, and connection with another person. 


In other words: where you are when you sleep is less indicative of relationship satisfaction than all of the interactions when you’re awake.


Couples frequently report feeling closer and more connected when they prioritize their sleep, making this term antiquated and harmful.

How Can We Prioritize Sleep AND a Healthy Relationship?


The key to successfully sleeping in separate beds (or rooms, or covers) is intentionality. 


We want sleeping arrangements to be a deliberate choice made to enhance the relationship, not a default or habit. This means the conversation is usually ongoing, circling back to see if the arrangement still suits both parties’ needs. Perhaps a child has started sleeping through the night, work schedules have changed, or one partner has begun to feel lonely on Saturday mornings. Keeping the lines of communication open ensures that your sleeping arrangement remains beneficial. 


Because sleeping in separate beds is [hopefully] an intentional choice, it breeds more intentionality. Having made a plan for valuing sleep, you reasonably make a plan for counteracting those moments of laying in bed before falling asleep and waking up beside each other. 


Here are some key things to consider while talking with your partner:

  • When will we build in time for intimacy? (Hint: Most of us are too tired at the end of the day, anyway.)
  • What daily interactions can we prioritize to build connection? (Cuddle during a show, go on a walk, eat a meal together)
  • What rituals can we create to part and come back together?
  • When one of us feels disconnected and insecure, what can we share with them to reassure and reaffirm our love together?
  • What are our boundaries for phone use when we’re together?


When we communicate about how to stay connected to our partner, that’s when the relationship thrives. If sleeping in separate bedrooms gives you the energy and motivation you need to be at your best with the person you love, then you’re on the right track. 


For more guidance on how to stay connected with your partner–however that looks in the face of social constructs–I’m always excited to work with you in my Be Connected program. CLICK HERE to learn more so that you and your partner can turn to each other and feel like a team.



Dr. Tracy