Sleep is not just resolution material — it is a basic human need. But, as myriad studies and ominous headlines tell us, no one is getting enough of it. We’re all too busy, too stressed, too staring-on-our-phones-before-bed to get decent rest on a regular basis. Sleep deprivation is a problem. And, for many people, the primary cause is the person right next to you in bed. And,
that problem has a complicated solution.
For anyone but the heaviest sleeper, sleeping with someone else in bed presents a challenge. Yes, the cuddling is a major plus, if cuddling is your jam. However, there’s also the snoring, the blanket wrestling, the tiny earthquake shaking you awake whenever he or she turns over too hard. What can you do? Kick them out? Put a ban on turning over?
Last month, when I moved in with my boyfriend, I decided to tackle the bed-sharing problem myself. Life is just too short to be tired and cranky all the time, so I tested every trick and product in the book. It goes without saying that proper sleep hygiene was already in place for me, but when there's another person in bed with you, sometimes you need more help. And, I found it — THANK GOD.
If you struggle with sharing a bed with someone else, here are 10 tips and items that may be a huge help. We’re pretty down on traditional resolution making, here. But this is a goal we can all get behind: Sleep more and sleep better. It’s your bed too, damn it.
Photographed by Winnie Au.
Make sure you can actually get out of bed. It's a luxury to have enough space to be able to choose where you position your bed in your bedroom — assuming you even have a bedroom to begin with. Sometimes you have no choice but to jam your bed in the corner of the room, but if you do that, someone is going to get trapped. Waking up in the middle of the night with your body plastered to the side wall, or having to climb over your partner just to go pee is not great. In a perfect world, you should move your bed so that there's just enough room to walk around both sides of the bed, so both partners can make a swift exit. And if your bed only fits when it's flushed against a corner, claim the outer side of the bed so you can get up in the middle of the night without having to perform an acrobatics routine over your partner's sleeping body.
Photographed by Anna Alexia Basile.
Ditch the full size bed. I don’t remember the day I transitioned from a crib to a “big girl bed,” but I do remember the day I transitioned from a twin XL dorm room mattress to my very own full. I rolled around on all 53 inches of width thinking, “Now this is a big girl bed.” Cut to a few years down the road, lying awake all night, staring at the jerk across from me, taking up half of those precious inches. There’s a reason the queen size mattress is the most popular. Full size beds are not designed for couples, they're for teenagers or single adults. In fact, sharing a full size bed with someone else leaves you with less than 27 inches of personal space. That is the width of a crib. Seriously. So, if you’re cramped and cranky in a full, uh, you should be. You’re a big girl in a baby’s bed. This is the best and first tip you should try. Yes, it’s also the most expensive. But upsizing your bed may literally change your life. I’m not going to say it “saved” my relationship. But it didn’t not save it.
Photo: Courtesy of Nest Bedding.
The Alexander Signature Select Mattress from Nest Bedding Since we were already shelling out for the new mattress, I decided to make sure we got a good one. After scrolling through dozens of reviews and mattress guides, it was clear that the Alexander Signature Select Mattress was not to be ignored. People spoke of the best sleep they’d had in years, of chronic pain miraculously vanishing, and the feeling of “sleeping in a hug.” That alone was enough to sell me, but I was even more game after reading about the company. It’s a small business based in California, specializing in non-toxic bedding and mattresses. You know that new mattress smell? That’s called “off-gassing” (cozy!) and these beds don’t have it. After the first night, though, I wouldn’t have cared if this thing was made of nuclear waste. It is comfortable, people. But, most important, when my boyfriend rolled around in bed, I could hardly feel a thing. It was the first time in recent memory that I wasn’t unreasonably angry at him for turning over or coughing or putting his arm down too hard. That used to wake me up. Now, he’s free to move and breathe like a normal human without ruining my night (and therefore the following day). The Alexander is made up of multiple levels of different kinds of memory foam, meaning motion transfer is drastically reduced. But, unlike other foam mattresses and toppers, you don’t feel as though you’re sinking into the bed. You also don’t feel hot and sweaty because the foam is wrapped up in a quilted outer later, like a traditional mattress. It’s the best of both worlds, no joke. The Alexander is pricey (though still about half the cost of a Tempur-Pedic mattress) but it’s worth noting that they have a 101-day trial period. If it’s not your jam, you can send it back for a full refund. But that just ain’t gonna happen.
Photographed by Mari del Rio.
No box springs allowed. To be fair, you might not be in a position to shell out for a new mattress right now. If that’s the case, there’s still one move you can do that costs nothing (except the pizza you’ll buy your friend to help you out with this one): Toss the box spring. I don’t know the sordid history of box springs, but they are surely the devil’s work. “Let’s make the bed less stable and more bouncy so even the weight of a housefly will shake them all awake," thus spoke Satan. Henceforth, we all had box springs under our mattresses for no good goddamn reason. If your bedframe doesn’t have slats, get one — even a $60 cheapo will do the trick. Simply putting the mattress on the floor will feel better in the short term (it’s probably not great for your back in the long run, but you’ll feel the difference when you’re with a partner). In the meantime, I’ll keep writing my congressman to try and eradicate box springs. We can do this.
Photo: Courtesy of Nite Hood.
The Nite Hood As a light sleeper, I have tried around 20 different styles of sleep masks in the last decade. Seriously, you should see my nightstand drawer. While they all have their merits — comfort, light blockage, washability, cuteness — I never felt totally comfortable. Blocking out light was totally worth the mild discomfort, but it was still not an ideal sleeping situation. Enter, the Nite Hood. Hear me out on this: Yes, it is a black hat that you pull down over half your face. Yes, that’s a little bit creepy. The first time I put it on and turned to show my boyfriend, I was met with an uncomfortable silence. At last, he responded: “It’s like Batman’s in my bed.” But you know what? That’s just too damn bad. Because once the Nite Hood is on, I instantly forget about it. No Velcro band around my head, no pressure on my eyelids, and no constant adjustment. There is a small tie in the back to make adjustments for your head size, but somehow, the thing just fits. The fabric is incredibly light and breathable bamboo, so even on nights when my overactive radiator has me in full body sweats, the Nite Hood is remarkably comfortable. While nodding off, I forget that there’s anything on my face (though, my boyfriend, lying awake beside Batman, is all too aware). But if the thought of sleeping in a vaguely menacing hood doesn’t appeal to you, fear not. I’ve got you covered…
Photo: Courtesy of Bedtime Bliss.
The Bedtime Bliss Mask If you do need a mask, the Bedtime Bliss Mask really does the trick. It is the lightest foam and fabric combo out there, meaning it’s soft enough that it won’t bother your skin, but sturdy enough to hold its structure. That’s the key to this mask. My top complaint with sleep masks is eyeball-compression. Even if it’s just a snug fabric, it’s not comfortable to have something pressing down on your eyes all night (and, I have no science to back me up here, but I’m sure it’s not good for your eyesight in the long run). The Bedtime Bliss Mask has cupped eye coverings, meaning that if you have the head strap on super tight, your eyes won’t feel a thing. You can even open your eyes and blink while wearing it. Furthermore, it stays put. You can toss and turn all night and it won’t budge. For that reason alone, this is probably the best pick for “active” sleepers —even better than the Nite Hood in that regard. When I made the switch, I hung on to this mask for travel. (No one wants to sit next to Batman on a transatlantic flight.)
Photo: Courtesy of Wicked Sheets.
Wicked Sheets Sorry, there’s no way around it. You can’t talk about sharing a bed with someone without talking about sweat. Sexy, sexy, night sweat. Sweating at night happens for many different reasons, most of which are benign. (It can be a symptom of a bigger medical issue, so if you find yourself unusually sweaty, it couldn’t hurt to go to the doctor). But the most common culprit is — are you ready for this? — being too warm. A lot of us struggle with finding the right temperature for sleep, but it’s much more difficult with someone else’s body heat in the mix. Obviously, sleepwear and heat adjustment are major factors here, but you’re probably never going to eliminate the sweat issue entirely. Although you can eliminate sweaty sheets. And, holy hell, what a game changer. Wicked Sheets are designed specifically for the hot and sweaty among us, but even if you’ve never dealt with this issue, you will not believe how much more comfortable these are. I’m the fussy, hot, sweaty sleeper in my relationship, but even my boyfriend (who could evidently sleep soundly on the surface of the sun) was hooked. This magic material claims to provide “3x more airflow” and even though I don’t really know what that means, I don’t care. They just don’t get hot, and when I’m bundled up in cold-weather blankets, I am never sweaty.
Photographed by Cory Dawson.
Separate blankets. Let’s face it: No matter how much you love your partner, sleeping in your own bed is a hell of a lot easier for most. But for other good reasons (for example: sex), couples don’t do the separate beds thing anymore. It brings to mind a kind of '50s era prudishness or the death of love. But let me posit a different variation: separate blankets. Separate blankets are the easiest way to end the fight over who hogged all the covers, who’s too hot or too cold, and the tossing and turning of dragging the covers all over the place (I’m sure it wasn’t you, obviously). For me, it was the feeling of constant fabric shifting on top of me, and the draft that came in whenever my boyfriend turned over. We had a blanket and a duvet on top, so you’d think there’d be enough covers to go around — but no. Then, one night he decided to shove the blanket aside and just sleep under the quilt on his side. I don’t know where the idea came from, divine intervention, being too hot? But it was a miracle indeed. That night, there was peace and stillness in what had once been a tumultuous land. This is one of the more subtle problems of bed sharing and therefore often goes unaddressed. But getting your own blanket gives you total control over at least one element of your sleeping equation. You can choose your preferred weight and warmth, tuck yourself in just as much or as little as you like, and no one’s going to come along and yank it off you. You can sleep soundly beside your sweetheart, and in the morning, you can throw a big ole coverlet over the whole thing, and no one will ever need to know.
Photo: Courtesy of Mack's.
Mack’s Ultra Soft Ear Plugs At this point, I could write a comparative thesis on the merits of each individual ear plug on the market. I could explain the science behind NRR (or Noise Reduction Rating, which ranks each ear plug by how much sound it effectively eliminates). Instead I’ll just cut to the chase and tell you, get Mack’s Ultra Soft Ear Plugs. Go get them, the end. These ear plugs have an NRR of 32, the second highest NRR of any commercially available ear plug. Yes, there is one ear plug that goes higher: The Hearos Xtreme Protection ear plugs have an NRR of 33 — and they’re great at blocking noise. But what they fall short on is comfort. They’re just a teeny bit too big, in my opinion, and if you don’t put them in just right, you might be woken up by the mild (but nagging) discomfort. However, the Mack’s Ultra Soft fit like a dream. You roll the squishy foam between your fingers, shaping them like a little tube, gently insert them, and then they slowly reinflate, molding perfectly to your ear. And no, they will not “fall in” as some people fear with ear plugs. But they will stay put all night. Rest assured they also probably won’t prevent you from hearing your alarm. Ear plugs are really good at blocking out or deadening a certain range of sounds — talking, snoring, background chatter. However, they don’t turn off all the sound, for better or worse. If you sleep with a snorer, a sleep-talker, or someone who stays up later than you do, these are your new best friends.
Photographed by Erica Gannett.
Separate bedtimes. While we’re at it, let’s talk about those different sleep schedules. This is another one of those issues where the solution is so simple and yet we hardly think of it. If you are tired and your partner is not, go to bed. That’s it. That’s the whole tip. My boyfriend and I have very different morning schedules meaning that I’m an early bird, and he’s a night owl. For years, bedtime was a constant compromise because, you know, we’re a couple, and couples are supposed to go to bed together. That’s how they do it in the movies! It took us years to realize that perhaps the movies are not an accurate representation of reality. If I have to be out the door by 7 a.m., I’m not staying up until 1 a.m. Furthermore, if he’s not tired when I’m tired, he shouldn’t have to lie in bed and stare at the ceiling for three hours. Yes, it’s nice to climb into bed together at the end of the day, cuddle up, and chat each other to sleep. But if your sleep schedules are just different, let them be different. Give each other permission to call bedtime for yourselves whenever you need to. Besides, there is a way to have your cuddling and your sleep, too.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY LAUREN PERLSTEIN.
There’s cuddle time and then there’s sleep time. Bedtime cuddling is perhaps one of the most sensitive issues in all of coupledom. Some people really need that particular expression of intimacy, and others feel smothered. No one is at fault. It’s just that we all have different needs and sensitivities when it comes to closeness. But if you and your partner are different on the cuddle spectrum, it can be hard to find that balance without someone feeling pushed away. Fear not: there is no need to resort to the hug-and-roll. I am a cuddler. But I am not a sleep cuddler. According to entirely unscientific polls I’ve conducted amongst my friends, it seems like most people are not sleep cuddlers. With the exception of those heavy sleepers who can nod off in virtually any position, most people need a little personal space to fall asleep and stay asleep. Unfortunately, most people won’t say this out loud. Even more unfortunately, there is no product solution for this issue. You’re going to have to use your words. I suggest before bed or during a lazy morning, but in one of those cozy moments, give your sweetie a squeeze and let them know, as much as you like being the little spoon, you’re having a hard time falling asleep in the silverware position. Framed as an issue of your needs and not their faults, the whole thing becomes less fraught. But the truth is, you might not even need a full sentence to fix this problem. Next time you find yourself spooned up and ready to sleep, turn around, give ‘em a big smooch, and say the magic word: “Goodnight.” Then turn over and get yourself comfy. You can sleep well knowing your sweetheart is right there by your side. They’re always there for you, just an arm’s reach away, and they know when to leave you the fuck alone. How lucky are you? Resolutions were made to be broken. This year, want to help you do you — the best you can. Check out more right here .