Being in a relationship is hard. And perhaps no aspect of a relationship is more challenging than what happens between the sheets. You know what I’m talking about: sleep.
From temperature disputes to cover-hogging to snores that trigger homicidal impulses, sleeping with another person is a minefield of potential conflict. How does anyone deal with this? Are certain people just “made for each other” when it comes to slumberland? I asked some couples those very questions. Here’s what they have to say.
“We’ve been co-sleeping for almost five years and consider ourselves excellent at it. The key to our success is compromise and flexibility. Greg has probably done most of the compromising around sleep — we both prefer the left side of the bed but he lets Deanna have it. Deanna thinks Greg could probably sleep in a litterbox. On the other hand, Greg likes more light in the morning, so Deanna puts pillows and/or black tank tops over her face. Frankly, both of us pretty much sleep like corpses every night, so we haven’t had to work too hard at this.”
Maddy: “A queen-size bed or bigger is essential if you’re gonna share a bed with someone on a regular basis. A double bed? Not big enough for two people. That is for one person.”
Amadou: “As long as Maddy doesn’t kick me, I usually sleep well. She usually kicks me all night.”
Maddy: “He’s bullshitting. That’s not true. I’m not a kicker. Literally he’s the one whose legs are constantly moving. I’m perfectly still from the time I get in bed until I wake up.”
Hunter: “The TLDR is that we got a king-size mattress. Problem eternally solved. The much longer version is that for many years we lived in an apartment in Brooklyn whose one bedroom couldn’t fit a queen-size bed, much less a king. We had a full-size mattress, which also had to be up against one wall because the room was so small. My now-wife Kim didn’t like sleeping next to the wall, but she also didn’t like it as cool as I did (the A/C unit was in the window, on the opposite side of the bed from the wall). So our compromise was that, during the winter, I slept next to the wall, and when it started getting hot enough to require turning on the A/C, we would swap sides of the bed for the warmer months. Unorthodox, I know, but it (mostly) worked for us.”
Kim: “We also had a number of other sleep issues in our full-size bed that was pushed up against a wall. Our bed was basically just a trampoline covered in foam, so we could feel the slightest movement by the other person. This would have probably not been a big deal for most people but I need to flip, flop, twist, turn, and shift positions for a good 10 minutes before falling asleep so this was super annoying to Hunter. The solution to our problem was moving and getting a king-size foam mattress. It is amazing.”
“Sharing a bed is easy when you practically have a pharmacy of sleep aids next to your bed.”
Steven: “I sleep like a corpse. Greg moves around a lot during the night, so we no longer sleep with a flat sheet. When we woke up in the morning it would be twisted up. Greg said that he never really had a nighttime routine before we moved in together. I like to close the blinds, get the room a good temperature, and relax a little in bed before we go to sleep. We found that moving in together and sleeping together made both of us go to bed earlier. We’re night owls, but now instead of staying up late every night, we try to set a more reasonable time to go to sleep, so that we have less trouble waking up in the morning.”
Steven: “I do need to listen to podcasts. I’ll put on headphones because Greg doesn’t like the noise. I’m very sensitive to people’s breath. I’m a side sleeper, so I sleep facing the outside of the bed because I can’t stand any breath in my face. If I need to sleep on my other side because I’m, like, sore on one side? Then I’ll make a pillow barrier.”
“We couldn’t be MORE opposite in terms of our sleeping styles: Steph loves a freezing cold room and is always moving around. Luke prefers the room to be warm and sleeps like a log.
Our biggest piece of advice? Don’t be offended when someone breaks the cuddle.”
Sean: “According to my sports tracker, I don’t get quality sleep unless I get ‘whole bed’ which is a term my wife and I use when we have the luxury of having the entire full-size bed to ourselves. The rare occasion of ‘whole bed’ comes at a cost because this means one of us is out of town. To further complicate things, we also have a cat that snuggles in our bed each and every night adorably, consuming a substantial percentage of the bed given her size and contributing a surprising amount of body heat until she wakes up bright and early to demand treats. My erratic sleep pattern predates my spouse and my cat, so I don’t blame them nor do I mind the compromise. I love them. ‘A good night’s sleep’ is sort of like ‘happiness’ to me in that I may never fully achieve it, but that doesn’t stop me from pursuing it and who better to pursue it with than the person (and cat) that I love the most.”
“Silvia has big dreams for all things bed-related. Specifically, the mattress should be just right (on the firmer side, but not that firm, just as long as it’s not like sinking into a lumpy curtain or something, you know?), and ideally the bed should be as large and as high as possible, because that’s what the Hogwarts dormitory’ beds are probably like. We’ve slept on a full-size, medium-height bed throughout our relationship because that’s just what we had. We made do on a full despite our distinct sleeping styles (starfish vs. edger). However, we’re shopping for a new bed at the moment, and it’s come to light that Abigail wants a super low bed more than anything. Our extreme bed height preference discrepancy has not led to a complete conflict, however, as we have compromised: We will have a queen-size mattress on our low, low bed frame. The point is, love conquers all, and at least neither of us is a covers-hog.”
“For us, the biggest sticking point when it comes to sleeping in the same bed together is, without a doubt, waking up to alarms in the morning. Blair prefers to set a series of alarms at fifteen-minute intervals starting at 7am to ease her into waking up, while Giaco would rather get all the sleep he can before waking up to a single, later alarm. We’ve found a happy medium, with an early alarm set to ‘get us into the mindset of waking up,’ and a final alarm that we both know we can’t sleep through.”
I truly had no idea how wide the range of sleeping preferences can be, or the lengths couples will go to in order to tolerate each other’s unconscious company (the “pillow barrier” may be my fave). One thing that might facilitate peaceful co-sleeping is a mattress from Purple, which incorporates scientific technology to provide features like durable, no-feel motion transfer. That might even help my friend Sean when he’s not getting “whole bed.” I find this stuff endlessly fascinating. How do you handle sleeping with other people? Let me know in the comments!
Tony Carnevale is a senior writer for Studio@Gizmodo.