Let me tell you a quick little story. About five years ago, I was dating someone, and we had some difficulty getting on the same page at bedtime. We decided that we’d try sleeping separately.
When I told that story to a friend of mine, he looked at me like I had six heads. This friend said something along the lines of, “Couples are supposed to sleep together.”
Indeed, the idea of couples sleeping separately seems like something out of the 1950s or 1960s. You might have the image in your mind of twin beds in the same bedroom like on “I Love Lucy” or “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”
But in an ever-changing world, I began to wonder whether the stigmatization of sleeping separately is, itself, out of date.
That’s the focus of this week’s episode of my new podcast “Margins of Error.” We go on a journey every week to explore topics that seem to be on the margins at first glance but are actually where the fun and knowledge begin. So far, we’ve talked about ghosts and daylight saving time.
For our third episode, it’s time to talk about couples’ sleeping habits. As it turns out, a lot of Americans are actually doing what I decided to do. About a quarter of American couples sleep apart at least a few times a month and even more Americans say their ideal arrangement is not sleeping in the same bed as their partner, according to data from the National Sleep Foundation, FiveThirtyEight and YouGov.
The fact that so many of us are sleeping separately from our partners shouldn’t be surprising.
For one thing, people simply have more room to spread out. The median house size has climbed over 40% since the 1970s. At the same time, the number of people sleeping in each household has dropped by 13%, according to the US Census Bureau.
More importantly, Americans aren’t as good at sleeping as they used to be. Only a little more than half of us get at least seven hours of sleep per night, per Gallup polling. In the 1940s, over four-fifths of Americans reached this mark.
We’ll look at the numbers to see why Americans are having such a hard time sleeping, and whether sleeping separately can truly solve those issues.
By the end of the episode, I hope you’ll be asking yourself the big question: should sleeping separately from your partner be the norm?
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