What is a Sleep Divorce? - Zukerman Law

What is a Sleep Divorce?

Adequate sleep is crucial for both your physical and mental health, impacting everything from your energy levels to your mood. But what happens when your partner’s tossing and turning keeps you awake, or their snoring sounds like a freight train? Enter the concept of a sleep divorce.
Despite the dramatic-sounding name, a sleep divorce simply means romantic partners choosing to sleep in separate beds or even rooms. Contrary to what you might think, it doesn’t signal relationship trouble. In fact, a surprising statistic shows that over a third of American couples actually practice sleep divorce.
So, if you’re constantly sleep-deprived thanks to your partner’s sleep habits, a sleep divorce might be the answer to a better night’s rest and a happier relationship!

What Does Sleep Divorce Mean?

What Does Sleep Divorce Mean?

A sleep divorce refers to the practice where romantic partners choose to sleep in separate beds or even separate rooms. It’s a way to address sleep disruptions caused by differences in sleep habits or preferences between partners.
While the term “sleep divorce” might sound drastic, it simply reflects the physical separation for sleeping purposes, not an emotional disconnect. Some experts actually prefer terms like “sleep separation” or “alternative sleep arrangements”.

Pros of a Sleep Divorce

Pros of a Sleep Divorce

Reduced Sleep Interruptions

Many people opt to sleep separately to minimize sleep disturbances. When partners share a bed, they can disrupt each other’s sleep due to differing sleep schedules, the need to get up for parenting duties, snoring, leg movements, sleep-related behaviors, or awakenings caused by pregnancy or illnesses like seasonal allergies.

Improved Sleep Quality

Individuals can sleep without disturbances from their partner’s snoring, movement, or different sleep schedules, leading to better rest and overall health.

Better Relationship Health

Quality sleep can reduce irritability and stress, leading to more positive interactions and a healthier relationship.

Increased Time Asleep

Those who stick with a sleep divorce over time report that they sleep an average of 37 minutes more each night while sleeping separately.

Cons of a Sleep Divorce

Cons of a Sleep Divorce

Emotional Distance

Sleeping apart can lead to feelings of emotional distance and reduced intimacy between partners.

Reduced Physical Closeness

Sharing a bed often provides opportunities for physical closeness and affection, which can be diminished with separate sleeping arrangements.

Perception of Relationship Issues

Friends or family might perceive the choice to sleep separately as a sign of relationship problems, leading to potential misunderstandings or social stigma.

Communication Barriers

Not sharing a bed might limit late-night conversations and the natural opportunities to communicate, which can be important for relationship maintenance.

Worsened Sleep Quality

Although sleeping separately improves sleep quality for some, it diminishes it for others. Among those who tried a sleep divorce but eventually returned to sleeping together, 40% reported that their sleep quality improved after ending the sleep divorce. Additionally, one research study found that sleeping with a romantic partner was linked to both better sleep quality and better mental health.

When It’s Time to Bring Up a Sleep Divorce

When It’s Time to Bring Up a Sleep Divorce

If sleeping with your partner significantly disrupts your sleep, it might be time to consider a sleep divorce. Consistently falling short on sleep carries many risks. Someone who isn’t getting enough sleep or whose sleep is frequently interrupted experiences a lower quality of life, is more prone to car accidents and work errors, faces a higher risk of heart issues, develops a weaker immune system, and may be more likely to gain weight and have a slower metabolism.
However, before trying a sleep divorce, you may want to explore other options.

Is a Sleep Divorce Right for You?

Is a Sleep Divorce Right for You?

So, you’ve learned about sleep divorce and its potential benefits. But how do you know if it’s the right solution for you and your partner? Here are some things to consider:

  • The severity of your sleep problems: Are you occasionally woken up by your partner, or is it a nightly battle that leaves you exhausted?
  • You’ve tried other solutions: Have you experimented with earplugs, white noise machines, or different mattresses?
  • Communication is key: Can you openly discuss your sleep issues with your partner and explore alternative solutions together?
Alternatives to a Sleep Divorce

Alternatives to a Sleep Divorce

A sleep divorce may be a significant commitment, especially if it involves rearranging your home or purchasing a new bed. Before taking this step, you might want to consider other alternatives.

Screening for Sleep Apnea

If snoring is pushing you toward a sleep divorce, screening for sleep apnea could be helpful. Snoring is a common symptom of this disorder.
Other signs include gasping or paused breathing during sleep, feeling tired during the day, waking up at night to urinate, irritability, and a tendency to fall asleep while driving or watching TV.

Changing Sleep Schedules

If differing sleep schedules are the problem, adjusting them may help you avoid a sleep divorce. For instance, if one person prefers staying up late, they could train themselves to go to bed earlier to avoid waking their partner. However, external factors like work schedules can make such adjustments challenging or impossible.

Using Other Sleep-promoting Tools

When sleeping in separate rooms isn’t ideal, there are other ways to minimize disturbances from a sleep partner. One survey found that 18% of sleepers use an eye mask to block out light and 15% use earplugs to block out sound, making it easier to sleep with their partner.

Sleeping Scandinavian Style

The Scandinavian style of sleeping involves sharing the same bed but not the same bedding. This option allows each partner to use the type of bedding that best suits their nighttime temperature preferences, providing more freedom of movement with less disturbance to the bed partner.


In conclusion, a sleep divorce is an arrangement where partners sleep separately to improve their individual sleep quality. While it may seem like an extreme measure, many couples find that it enhances their overall well-being and strengthens their relationship by reducing nightly disturbances. However, it’s essential to consider all alternatives and communicate openly with your partner before making such a decision. Whether through adjusting sleep schedules, using sleep-promoting tools, or exploring different bedding arrangements, there are various ways to achieve restful sleep together. Ultimately, the goal is to find a solution that works best for both partners, ensuring that a good night’s sleep doesn’t come at the expense of intimacy and connection.


  • What happens when couples stop sleeping together?1

    It can make the person who wants to sleep together feel rejected or abandoned, while the other person may feel pressured. It may also be crucial to explore other reasons why sleeping together isn’t working. If snoring is an issue, a medical examination for sleep apnea might be necessary.

  • Is sleep divorce healthy?1

    Sleep divorce, where couples choose to sleep in separate beds or rooms, can be healthy if it improves sleep quality and reduces conflicts caused by disrupted rest. For many, this arrangement leads to better physical and mental health, enhancing overall relationship satisfaction. However, it can also introduce challenges, such as emotional distance and reduced physical closeness.

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Stuart Zukerman

Stuart Zukerman, a graduate of the University of British Columbia, has over 32 years of experience in litigation with a focus on Family Law, Personal Injury, Wrongful Dismissal claims, and Collaborative Divorce & Mediation. He has extensive trial experience in divorce, child custody, spousal support, asset division, and ICBC injury claims. As an accredited Family Law Mediator, he helps resolve disputes without court intervention. Stuart has also authored papers on family law and lectured at CLE courses.