Can’t Sleep With Someone Else In Bed?

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 some tips and items that may be a huge help. Sleep more and sleep better. It’s your bed too, damn it.

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Ditch the full size bed.

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.

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No box springs allowed.

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 bed frame doesn’t have slats, get one — even a cheap one 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.

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Separate blankets.

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.

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Separate bedtimes.

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 realise 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.

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There’s cuddle time and then there’s sleep time.

There’s cuddle time and then there’s sleep time.

Bedtime cuddling is perhaps one of the most sensitive issues in all of the 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?

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Get a body pillow.

Get a body pillow.

Maybe you tossed your body pillow in favour of a real-life cuddle buddy, but if that person happens to be the world's worst cuddler, then it could seriously ruin your sleep. They toss, they turn, they snore, and suddenly you find yourself missing your trusty (and silent) body pillow. Here's a little secret: There's no shame in ditching your partner for an inanimate object — at least while you're sleeping.

Body pillows make better cuddle buddies because they provide support for side-sleepers without all of the things a human does that keeps you awake — like move, and steal blankets, and breathe on you, and scorch you with their body heat. So do yourself a favour, and bring your body pillow back to the bedroom.

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Make sure you can actually get out of bed.

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 sidewall, 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.

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