Why should couples go to bed at the same time?

Why should couples go to bed at the same time?

    • For many couples, going to bed together is a fundamental commitment, and these partners often go out of their way to protect that time together.
    • New research justifies this approach, finding that partners with a disconnect between bedtimes reported lower satisfaction with both their relationships and their sex lives.
    • Even when couples engaged in different activities in bed (like using different apps on their smartphones), they were more satisfied when they went to bed at the same time.

Sex or no sex, going to bed as a couple is a gateway to a increased connection. In the evening, without being encumbered by children, work and household chores, people can really relax. They can talk and touch each other. Just being in the bedroom at night with a partner is a promising concoction for the‘privacy. As Ernest Hemingway noted in A Moveable Feast:

“We would be together, have our books and at night we would be warm in bed with the windows open and the stars shining.”

It doesn’t mention anything about sex or conversation. And yet his portrayal of a couple lying side by side, reading under the starlight, is incredibly romantic.

Perhaps it was the combination of these feelings that led me to make a pact with my husband over 10 years ago, when we were already 15 years into our 25-year relationship: we would always sleep together, regardless of time, day or outstanding obligations.

Apart from the times when one of us leaves for work, it is a pact that we have respected. Sometimes that means we go to bed at 8:30 or 9 p.m. Sometimes that means one of us brings a laptop, turns on the TV, or reads while the other sleeps. But in general, it doesn’t look like a compromise. The short time between when we go to bed and when we fall asleep (usually 2-3 hours) is our protected time together – a precious time when we can dedicate ourselves to each other. It’s a compromise that works, and according to my recent research with Dr. Brandon McDaniel, it’s a compromise that more couples should be making.

In our recent study, we asked 289 American adults who are in a relationship or relationship how they typically spend their nighttime routines with their partner. We also asked them what they would ideally like to do with their partner during those hours before bedtime. Unfortunately, mismatches were common. Many of these people expressed frustrations with their partner, noting that their partner went to bed without them, spent time alone on their computer or watched television, or never wanted any physical or emotional intimacy. Many of them mentioned that they were unhappy with their typical nighttime routines.

Although a mismatch between typical and ideal routines did not predict satisfaction, in general, when there was a inadequacy in physical intimacy (i.e., the person wanted physical intimacy but did not get it in their usual nighttime routine), this led to less bedtime satisfaction. In turn, people who were less satisfied at bedtime were less satisfied sexually, less satisfied with their relationship, and less satisfied with their life, overall.

Do other activities predict bedtime satisfaction?

    • Joint media use (like watching TV or Netflix together).
    • Emotional intimacy before bedtime (for example, conversations with a partner).
    • Simply lie down with a partner.

Although we thought that couples engaging in distinct activities (especially technology-related activities) before bedtime would have lower bedtime satisfaction, it was not a significant predictor of bedtime satisfaction. And engaging in technology with a partner was actually a good thing. Maybe that’s why Netflix has become so popular. Best case scenario, you have amazing and fulfilling sex. But even in the worst case scenario, you’re still watching a movie and relaxing with someone you love. Win-win.

So maybe the solution to a happy married life really starts in the bedroom. But building an ideal nighttime routine is not an infallible recipe for X + Y + Z. Some couples are going to want more sex. Others may want to talk more. Still others may want to watch a movie together. The dynamic of each couple being unique, the best starting point is a conversation with your partner.

It could start with a simple question: what would your ideal nighttime routine look like? And couples could build from there.

Incorporate more of what you want and less of what you don’t want.

9 Questions to Consider When Partners Have Different Bedtimes

Each member of the couple should write down the topics they want to discuss. Start with the topics you both chose, then take turns discussing the ones you alone chose:

    • 1. Do you need to find other times to talk and connect if you usually do it when you’re both in bed (and awake)?
    • 2. Do you need to find other times to have sex if you usually do before bedtime?
    • 3. Are there other ways to find time alone so that your sleep schedules can be better in sync?
    • 4. Do you need to put your kids to bed earlier to have more time together before exhaustion takes over?
    • 5. Do you need to find alternate times to watch your favorite shows together?
    • 6. Should you schedule daytime naps on weekends to allow for some intimate (or sexual) relaxation time in bed together?
    • 7. Do you need to communicate more clearly why you stay up later or go to bed earlier?
    • 8. Do either or both of you snore and need to see a doctor for sleep apnea?
    • 9. Do either or both of you need to improve your sleep hygiene and go to bed at a consistent time each night and wake up at a consistent time each morning?

Differences in bedtimes can be managed, but it takes communication to set mutual expectations and resolve issues that arise when couples are unable to both relax and unwind together before bedtime. Set aside a time to talk about it and work together to get on the same page.

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