Are you the big spoon or the little spoon? Do you kiss goodnight and scurry off to your side of the bed? Or maybe you don’t sleep in the same bed at all. Movies and TV shows have shaped our idea of what sleeping as a couple should look like. We “should” sleep naked, we “should” sleep entwined, we “should” always kiss goodnight. We are “shoulding” all over ourselves, but what do the experts say?
People tend to think more physical contact is better and is indicative of a stronger relationship. However, some experts say the opposite is true. Perhaps couples who sleep without touching each other are more secure in their relationships. Some reports even suggest that sleeping in separate beds could be beneficial to marriages, and save dwindling sex lives.
Assume the position
A 2012 study conducted by a hotel chain and psychologist Corinne Sweet looked into the sleeping positions of 2,000 couples. They discovered that these positions were the most common:
Back to back, but not touching This couple feels connected while independent enough to sleep separately. They are used to each other and accept each other’s sleeping habits.
Back to back, but touching. These couples are comfortable, intimate and relaxed with each other. A popular position in a new relationship.
Male spoons with the female on the inside. This is a traditional position, in which the male takes the lead and protects his lover. Couples sleep side-by-side, each curled up in the fetal position. Traditional spooning is the most common position adopted by couples during the first few years of their relationship or marriage. It shows both a strong sexuality and feeling of security in the relationship.
Lovers knot (9%)
Face to face, legs intertwined for roughly 10 minutes before couples separate to sleep. This position demonstrates a loving independence. It’s a sign of intimacy, love and sexual activity — even though the couple separates and sleeps apart.
Pillow talk (8%)
Face to face. This position represents an intimate need for one-to-one contact and conversation in bed.
Spoons – female (6%)
Spoons with the female on the outside. In this position, the female takes the lead and protects her man while he is sleeping.
The lovers (5%)
Face to face with legs intertwined all night. This is love’s young dream position, where you cannot bear to be separated. Each moment together counts. A position for the born romantics.
The romantic (1%)
Woman lying with head and arm on man’s chest. This is the popular Hollywood movie bed scene position. An intimate pose much favored in a new relationship or after sex. It represents new or rekindled love.
Woman lying in a starfish position with man hanging off the bed. The woman rules the bed in this position. She likes her space and the man takes a secondary role and lets her take it.
Man lying in starfish position with woman hanging off the bed. In this position the male is king of the bed. He likes to have his way and the woman obliges.
What about couples who sleep in separate beds? According to a 2017 survey from the National Sleep Foundation, almost one in four married couples sleep separately. From a practical standpoint, separate beds can benefit quality of sleep. Spouses may work different schedules or one may snore, grind their teeth, or have sleep apnea or another sleep disorder.
But sleeping in separate beds is not only good for quality of sleep, it can actually be beneficial for our sex lives. “Sleeping in separate beds can create the opportunity to be more intentional about having a healthy sex life,” said Sophie Jacobi-Parisi, a New York lawyer who practices matrimonial and family law, when speaking to The South China Morning Post. “It can alleviate some of the pressure felt to be intimate when a bed is shared, too,” she added.
Men vs. women at bedtime
If you are sleeping separately, there could also be a scientific reason behind it. According to the American Sleep Foundation, male and female circadian rhythms don’t exactly line up. Men’s clocks tend to run truer to a full 24-hour cycle or just slightly over (on average, men have a circadian cycle that is six minutes longer than women). This means men may feel less tired in the evening.
Women, however, have an internal clock that is more likely to be shorter than a full 24-hour cycle, making it more likely they will awaken earlier. Without society dictating when our days start and end, the body’s natural rhythms make it more likely that if you are a man, you will be a night owl, and for women, an early bird.
With this knowledge, you can see why going to bed at the same time may not work for every couple. But have an open discussion about it. “For couples that choose to sleep separately but don’t have a conversation around why they are making the change, it can be another step in the path toward divorce” Jacobi-Parisi, warned.
If you’re interested in learning more about sleeping habits alongside tricks and tips that can help you get some serious shut-eye, take a look at some of our recent articles on sleep including, the benefits of sleeping naked and the ways lack of sleep impacts your health.