by Rachel Gore

According to the National Sleep Foundation, nearly one in four American couples sleep in separate beds or bedrooms. Before chalking this up as a “bad sign” or something only people in failing relationships do, consider the following: what if sleeping separately can actually make you stronger as a couple?

Sleeping next to someone, even someone you love can be hard. While some couples sleep better when they share a bed with one another, this just isn’t the case for everyone. Whether it be excessive body heat, snoring, mismatched sleep schedules or someone’s tendency to steal the entire blanket, it isn’t always pleasant trying to get a good night’s sleep while sharing a bed. And while the term “sleep divorce” may not sound very uplifting, doing so could actually have a positive effect on your love life.

Getting enough sleep is critical for your mood. Sleep deprivation has been linked to numerous negative emotional health outcomes that can take a toll on relationships. If you are grumpy, irritable or anxious with your partner due to chronic exhaustion, this can affect the way you communicate with one another. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to serious mental health issues like depression, which can take an emotional toll on both of you.

One University of California Berkeley study found that being sleep deprived even impacts the little ways couples express gratitude; couples who are sleep-deprived are less likely to say “thank you” to one another. Study author and psychologist Amie Gordon says that “poor sleep may make us more selfish as we prioritize our own needs over our partner’s. You may have slept like a baby, but if your partner didn’t, you’ll probably both end up grouchy.”

A healthy sleep schedule is linked to a higher sex drive. Very few people are “in the mood” when they’re exhausted, and there’s a scientific explanation behind why. Basically, REM sleep is necessary to maintain sufficient testosterone levels. REM sleep is the deep sleep that occurs late in the sleep cycle, so if you aren’t sleeping long enough to enter the REM stage, you won’t maximize the restoration of your testosterone levels overnight. According to a study published in Sleep Medicine Reviews, low testosterone levels can cause low sex drive in men and women and erectile dysfunction in men.

A separate study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that among a group of 171 female college students, a single hour of extra sleep led to a 14 percent increase in the chances they would have sex with a partner the next night. Researchers concluded that “[ob]taining sufficient sleep is important to the promotion of healthy sexual desire as well as the likelihood of engaging in partnered sexual activity.”

Sleeping separately is not a sign of a failing relationship. The benefits of getting a good night’s sleep should not be undervalued, so stay open-minded about the possibility of sleeping separately. In addition to sleep being associated with an increase in mood, better communication and a higher sex drive, you may find yourself relishing the alone time you get at the end of the day.
Of course, not wanting to sleep in the same bed anymore can also be a symptom of a bigger problem within the relationship. If that is the case, it’s worth considering reaching out to a couples or marriage counselor to see if that problem can be resolved. While this may be the case for some couples, though, dismiss the assumption that this is true for every couple that sleeps separately. By waking up refreshed from a good night’s sleep, you may find that you are happier in your relationship than ever before—which might not have been possible if you were left tossing and turning next to a snoring partner all night.

Remember that it is important for both partners to be on board. If you agree to sleep in separate beds at the request of your significant other, but internally feel miserable about the arrangement, resentment and overall relationship dissatisfaction can result. The needs of both partners should be taken into consideration while deciding on a sleep arrangement that works best for you. With open communication and good intentions, sleeping separately may actually be a relationship saver.