By Bunmi Sofola
A lot of medical research into sleep habits over the past 12 years suggests that couples who share a bed tend to live longer and stay healthier than those who sleep alone. That women in long-term relationships fell asleep faster and woke up less often than single women, leading to them having lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that has been linked to heart disease and depression.
Sharing a bed, claimed another report, boosts emotional well-being. A hard fact to swallow because most married woman attest to trying to get a decent night’s sleep with their husbands can be a real challenge.
From stealing the covers to snoring like a pig, a man can turn sleeping by your side into a recipe for insomnia and arguments rather than good health and happiness. So what can you do to make sleeping together more harmonious? The experts advise…
Buy a big bed: With research suggesting that the average person will turn 60 to 70 times in the night, having enough space to stretch out and not be disturbed by your partner’s movements is the first consideration to a good night’s sleep.
“One of the main reasons why many couples fail to sleep well is that they are in a bed that’s far too small for them,” says Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan, a sleep expert. “A standard 4ft 6in wide double bed gives two adults just 2ft 3in of width each—that’s the same width as the average cot.
The easiest way to check if you have enough space in bed is to lie on your back next to your partner on the mattress, with your hands behind your heads, elbows out to either side. If your elbows touch, the bed is too small.
Use a bolster: Sharing the bed with a restless sleeper is no fun. If you’re fed up with finding an elbow in your ear and a knee in your back in the early hours, but can’t afford a bigger bed or the room is too small for one, creating a physical barrier down the centre of the bed is one solution.
“A pillow down the centre will solve the problem, but it takes up a lot of room and is easily shoved aside,” says the expert. Instead, try a long, slim foam wedge usually used to stop small children from tumbling out of bed.
Get two covers: Another common cause of sleep disturbance is stolen covers. “If you and your partner fight over the cover during the night, then the simplest answer is to get your own set of bed covers,” says the expert. “Sleeping under separate covers is the one piece of advice that engenders most resistance from couple, but once they try it, they say it’s the tip that has helped the most.
Banish storing: To minimise the likelihood of snoring, the expert suggests sleeping on your side to keep the airways open. Avoid sedatives such as alcohol and antihistamines before bed, as these promote greater airway relaxation and collapse, and therefore more snoring.
To drown out the sound, it’s recommended you flood your bedroom with a low-level background sound, which can be anything from the sound of static rain or a cat purring. Even though it may not seem loud enough, such ‘white noise’ can effectively mask loud snorts and snuffles. Something as simple as the noise of an electric fan running in the bedroom can help a lot.
If trying to drown out the sound fails, invest in a good pair of earplugs. Experiment with different types to get the best fit or go for a silicone pair.
Don’t have sex: Recent research suggests that sex can help a couples fall asleep more quickly. Neurro-scientist Serge Stolere found that after sex, our brains—particularly male brains—are flooded with sleep-inducing chemicals such as serotonin. But Dr. Meadows isn’t convinced that it always works.
“For some, sex can have a powerful relaxing—and therefore sleep-inducing—effect caused by release of the hormone prolactin immediately after an orgasm “ he says, “But for others, it can act like a stimulant, waking people up more with a release of adrenaline and a rise in core body temperature.” Maybe on reflection, a cup of cocoa and a good book aren’t such a bad idea after all!