While sharing beds was once a purely practical decision, it has become a byword for intimacy in a relationship. Many couples find it much easier to sleep if they share each other’s company overnight.
Close contact results in the body releasing a hormone called oxytocin, which enables us to relax and drift into sleep. Sharing a bed with somebody we love and trust magnifies the impact of oxytocin, and this matters as our subconscious understands how vulnerable we are when asleep.
It’s important not to grow overly dependent on sharing a bed for sleep. There are many occasions or instances where couples can’t sleep together, either for one night or several nights. Usually, sharing a bed with someone special promotes a restful night’s sleep.
Sharing a bed is often considered the embodiment of intimacy in a relationship. This is a little ironic, as married couples initially chose to share beds due to the expense of the furniture and the presence of multiple children in tiny homes.
Of course, as time has moved on, so has the reason for sharing beds. Today, many couples choose to share a bed as a bonding exercise. Humans are evolved primates, and like our simian ancestors, we form complex pair bonds based on mutual affection.
Thankfully, the benefits of sharing a bed justify the choices we make. Inviting a partner into your bed overnight – or a pet, although there are many reasons not to sleep with your dog – brings comfort to many people.
What Happens When You Sleep Next to Someone?
Sleeping next to a partner releases a chemical called oxytocin, also known as the love hormone. This chemical compound begins in the human brain and floods the body with positive emotions and endorphins.
Now, oxytocin release isn’t the sole reserve of sleeping with an established partner. Contact with any other human will release the chemical. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences explain how simple empathy toward a stranger can release the hormone.
There’s no denying that sleeping alongside somebody that we love and trust has a more significant impact on oxytocin release, though. In addition to the scientific release of hormones, you’ll feel secure and contented.
Sharing a bed with a loved one also creates a comforting sense of ritual that aids slumber. We grow used to the shape and scent of somebody else in our bed at night, which sends messages to the brain that it’s time for bed.
Of course, this could have a dark side. As discussed by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, it’s possible to grow dependent on the company of a loved one before we can sleep.
Does Sleeping Together Make You Closer?
Based on everything we have discussed, sharing a bed and sleeping with a partner certainly makes us closer. Unfortunately, sleeping together isn’t a miracle cure for relationship problems.
As explained by Sleep Medicine Reviews, the quality of sleep in a shared bed is directly related to the strength of a relationship. If you’re prone to arguments with your spouse during the day, don’t expect sleeping together to rectify these concerns.
Sharing a bed with somebody you harbor simmering resentments toward may keep you up at night. In such instances, you’re better off sleeping in separate rooms until any differences have been patched up.
Why Does it Feel Good to Sleep Next to Someone?
Sharing a bed with a partner releases chemicals that lead to a contented night. There’s more to sleeping in the same bed than just science. Many people can also pinpoint tangible physical and emotional rewards for cuddling under a duvet.
If you’re still considering whether you feel comfortable sharing a bed with a new partner or are planning to begin sharing your bed and seek reassurance that you’re doing the right thing, there are more reasons to sleep well at night after making your choice.
Some of us run at different body temperatures than our partners, which can become very helpful at bedtime. For a good night’s sleep, it’s always advisable to sleep in a cool room. If you’re prone to feeling the cold, this may be unappealing.
A traditional solution would be to bring an artificial heat source into the bed, such as a hot water bottle or heated blanket. If you share your bed with a partner, this may be unnecessary.
Sharing body heat through cuddling in bed performs the same task, with the bonus of releasing positive hormones. The calming influence of oxytocin and a comfortable body temperature will likely help you drift into a deep, contented sleep.
Sense of Security
Another advantage of sleeping with a partner is the sense of personal safety and security it inspires. Sharing a bed, knowing that somebody is alongside us, goes some way to assuaging the vulnerability we feel while sleeping.
For example, you have perhaps decided to stay up late watching horror movies on TV before heading to bed. You could climb into bed alone, spooking yourself with every step on a creaky floorboard or shadow at the window, or relax into a partner’s body.
Naturally, how secure you feel after this depends on the partner. Sharing a bed only feels safe and secure if you trust the person you sleep beside. You’re more likely to rest well in a strong relationship built on mutual trust.
Intimacy Increases Sleep Quality
It’s not lewd to point out that romantic partners don’t only use a bed for sleeping. In many respects, sex and sleep quality are intrinsically linked. Regular intimacy before sleeping alongside a partner often leads to better sleep.
As per Frontiers in Public Health, intercourse is considered a novel way to combat insomnia and promote a better night’s sleep. The explanation is the release of oxytocin and prolactin during sex. While this latter hormone is more readily associated with lactation in pregnant women, its core function is encouraging REM sleep.
This means that anybody, regardless of gender, is likely to feel relaxed and sleepy in the aftermath. Add the previously discussed body heat and sense of security to this, and you have the recipe for good sleep.
Of course, you don’t need to share a bed to enjoy intimacy with a partner. You’re likelier to sleep well if you immediately embrace the hormonal release by sleeping together, especially if you choose to sleep without clothing.
If you struggle to sleep beside a partner, consider spending the night in separate rooms and reconvening for intimacy. According to The Journal of Sexual Medicine, women, in particular, are likelier to welcome intercourse after a good night’s sleep.
Are you troubled by vivid dreams and nightmares when you sleep at night?
If so, sleeping with a partner may bring these midnight movies under control. That’s according to Frontiers in Psychology, which claims that sharing a bed stabilizes REM sleep.
The outcome of this will be more than just better dreams. By mastering your REM sleep, you’re likelier to enjoy positive mental health in your waking life. Unregulated REM sleep is linked to anxiety and depression, which can impact the ability to sleep.
If you still need convincing to allow your partner into your bed, there are many everyday health benefits to sharing the sheets. These include:
- Oxytocin helps you fall asleep sooner, making it likelier that you’ll enjoy a full eight hours of sleep.
- Another side effect of oxytocin is cortisol suppression, aka the stress hormone. Sleeping alongside a partner will keep anxiety under control, which will prevent high blood pressure and cardiac strain.
- Sharing a bed means sharing everything, including germs. This microdosing can lead to a superior immune system.
Sleeping with a partner will theoretically make you healthier and happier. That doesn’t mean that you must adopt the practice, though. Your personal comfort and how that influences the quality of your sleep is the most crucial consideration.
Why Can I Not Sleep Sharing a Bed with Partner?
Despite these reasons to sleep alongside somebody you love, some people cannot make this work. Don’t worry if you struggle to fall asleep next to a partner – it’s a common concern. It doesn’t mean that you’re heartless or your relationship is doomed.
The increasing popularity of sleeping in separate rooms has led to the term “sleep divorce” entering the lexicon. This is the term for partners in a happy, solid relationship opting to sleep in separate rooms for uninterrupted slumber.
Common reasons to consider sleeping in separate rooms include:
- One or both partners snore
- You keep disparate hours, retiring to bed and rising at different times
- One partner is prone to taking the bedsheets, leaving the other cold
- Varying preferences in room temperature or decor for sleeping
- General discomfort with sharing space in a bed
Chronobiology International recommends that all couples enter a dialog about sleeping arrangements to discuss whether sharing a bed is mutually beneficial. If you dislike sharing a bed, you may find that your partner feels the same way.
If you and your partner are happily sharing a bed, you should enjoy your high-quality sleep and reap the benefits in the morning. There are undeniably rewards to sharing a bed if you can make the dynamic work for all parties.