Sex File: How do we keep our sex life alive if we sleep apart?

Sex File: How do we keep our sex life alive if we sleep apart?

Q. My husband and I have been married for 12 years, and as much as I love him, his snoring was driving me mad. Our new arrangement is that he sleeps in the spare room. Now we're sleeping separately, how do we keep our sex life alive?

A. Hold your horses. Have you tried to work out why he snores? The website britishsnoring.co.uk has a fascinating diagnostic test that takes ten minutes and offers personalised solutions based on the underlying causes. The most common are being overweight and drinking alcohol, but obstructive sleep apnoea is a potentially serious sleep disorder that is often identified by the sleep partner rather than the snorer. If your husband has moments where he seems to stop breathing while he is sleeping, he ought to run it past his GP.

Either way, he should try to lose any excess weight and limit his alcohol intake. Now I realise that there is a high chance you have asked him to do both of those things a million times already, but giving him a stark choice between leading a healthier lifestyle and sleeping alone in the spare room might just incentivise him.

You are obviously much more likely to have regular sex if you sleep next to each other. Libido is often opportunistic, and when you reach across the sheets in the early morning and find a receptive body on the other side, one thing leads to another. If your husband is sleeping down the hall, that kind of spontaneous lovemaking is less likely. You can schedule sex or make visits in the night, but it is not the same.

You are also relinquishing the kisses, cuddles and pillow talk that are so important for intimacy and connectedness. A study at the University of Pittsburgh found that, for women specifically, the stable presence of a bed partner leads to better sleep quality and continuity.

The ritual of going to bed and getting up together is an important part of your intimate connection too. Research that looked at how sleeping patterns affected relationship happiness found that couples who went to bed at the same time, slept together and got up together had much higher levels of relationship satisfaction.

Sleeping together has all sorts of health and wellbeing benefits.

 

When a study led by the German neurologist Henning Drews recorded couples' sleep patterns in a laboratory setting, they found that couples who slept together experienced a "zeitgeber effect" - their movements synchronised and so did their heart rate, their breathing and the stage of sleep that they were in. When they subsequently compared co-sleepers with solo sleepers, they found that the co-sleepers had better subjective sleep quality, increased sleep time, sleep efficiency, total slow-wave sleep and REM sleep.

Of course, snoring is annoying, but there are lots of solutions that don't involve packing the man you love off to the spare room. Have you explored high-tech earplugs? Pluggerz, Eargasm, Happy Ears and WiMaker make effective products.

If your husband remains banished from your bedroom, don't expect your sleep to improve automatically in his absence. One study found that women who live with snorers were three times as likely to report symptoms of insomnia, yet sleeping in separate bedrooms made no difference to the headaches and tiredness they had previously blamed on their partner's snoring. All separate bedrooms did was exacerbate marital problems.

Send your queries to suzigodson@mac.com


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