Adapted from Dr. Judith Orloff’s book,“The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People” (Sounds True, 2017)
Have you ever wanted to sleep separately from your partner, but you’re afraid to bring it up? Are you tired of his or her tossing and turning or snoring? Over the years I’ve had many patients and workshop participants come to me saying that they love their partner but often feel fatigued and overwhelmed in the relationship and would prefer sleeping alone. This is particularly true for highly sensitive empathic people. Even though there are those who thrive on togetherness there are many others, like myself who tend to intuit and absorb our partner’s energy and become overloaded, anxious or exhausted when we don’t have time to decompress in our own space. This is amplified when you sleep in the same bed as someone! In my books, "The Empath's Survival Guide" and "Emotional Freedom," I discuss sleep and dreams that includes tips on sleeping with a partner. The books also has other helpful techniques for successful relationships for sensitive people.
Traditionally partners sleep in the same bed. However, some energy-sensitive people never get used to this, no matter how caring a mate. Nothing personal; they just like their own sleep space. It is important to speak up about your preferences. Feeling trapped in bed with someone, never getting a really good night’s rest, is torture. Energy fields blend during sleep, which can overstimulate sensitives. So, brainstorm with your mate about options. Separate beds. Separate rooms. Sleeping together a few nights a week. Because non-energy-sensitive people may feel lonely sleeping alone, make good faith compromises when possible.
More and more couples are becoming aware of this issue as indicated in this recent article in the Toronto Sun newspaper on “Sleep Divorce?” that I was interviewed for.
Sleep divorce? Sleeping apart for health and comfort is good for relationshipsby Joanne Richard, Special to QMI Agency
Tired of tossing and turning? Annoyed with your snoring spouse? Save your marriage – get a sleep divorce. According to Dr. Judith Orloff, if you want to love the one you’re with, then you leave them – at night. Orloff practices what she preaches: “My last partner and I used to sleep separately most of the time. He was a big bear who tossed and turned and was always hot. I needed more space and quiet with no snoring. I am a person who needs lots of blankets, comforters and coziness. He got too hot with all the covers I wanted.”
Sleeping separate is not a sign of imminent relationship demise. It is becoming much more acceptable among loving couples, says Orloff, adding that “this has helped many of my patients… it can save relationships and love." Good sleep equates to good health and good relationships: “It is hell not to get a good night’s sleep,” adds Orloff, author of Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life. Being sleep deprived can make you irritable and resentful of your partner who is snoring – “life isn’t as fun.”
Studies show that couples suffered 50% more sleep disturbances if they shared a bed. According to sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus (thesleepdoctor.com), snoring and insomnia greatly impact sleep quality, but while separate bedrooms may provide better sleep, “the trouble is that it may affect intimacy as well.
“But if someone can make up for that, it can be a good short-term solution,” says Breus. For a loving mature relationship, sleeping apart for the sake of each person’s health is not a big issue, says Dr. Lois Krahn, a consultant at the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorder Center. But “for people with a lot of insecurity about the relationship, sleeping separately can be a huge issue. They can feel rejected, unwanted, unattractive, undesirable or potentially replaceable. These feelings could easily creep into daytime interactions and start eroding the foundation of the relationship.” Recognize and accept that sleep is not synonymous with romance, security, dependence, or sexual activity, says Krahn.
Separate beds does not mean no sex, stresses Orloff. “Couples can still snuggle and have sensual times and sex before they go sleep in separate bedrooms. It is important to keep sensuality and sexuality alive. Otherwise this essential part of a relationship may be lost when people sleep apart.”
Try to work out your sleep differences before seeking separate bedrooms. Take these tips from sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus, author of The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan:
In my practice, I’ve seen this creative approach to relationships save marriages and make ongoing intimacies feel safe, even for energy-sensitive people (of all ages) who’ve been lonely and haven’t had a long-term partner before. Once you’re free to articulate your needs, horizons open.