New reports suggest that sharing a bed with your partner could result in improved rest
Everyone has their own opinion on the best way to fall and stay asleep. Some people find it hard to sleep without their partner with them, while others relish the chance to starfish and spread out in a bed all to themselves.
However, new research shines a light on the potential benefits of sharing a bed when it comes to falling asleep. The research – carried out in Germany – explores the impact that sharing a bed has on our ability to get to sleep easily and stay asleep throughout the night.
We’re going to take a closer look at this research, as well as exploring some of the ways you can enjoy better sleep in your life.
Many sleep studies look at the sleep habits of participants who are kept isolated from extraneous factors, including other people. However, this doesn’t account for how sleep is impacted by the presence of another person in the bed.
This particular study looked to assess the sleep architecture of couples sharing a bed, looking in particular at the impact this had on REM sleep – a phase of sleep that is critical for emotional regulation and memory.
Researchers, led by Dr Henning Johannes Drews from the Center of Integrative Psychiatry (ZIP) in Kiel, focused their research on 12 young, healthy, heterosexual couples who spent four nights in a sleep laboratory.
Sleep parameters were measured with both the presence and the absence of a partner using dual simultaneous polysomnography. This technology, according to Dr Drews, provides a “very exact, detailed and comprehensive method to capture sleep on many levels, from brain waves to movements, respiration, muscles tension, movements and heart activity.”
Participants were also asked to complete questionnaires to measure relationship characteristics, including relationship duration, depth of relationship and the degree of passionate love.
The results of the study showed that REM sleep was both increased and less disrupted for couples sleeping together, compared to when they slept separately.
What does this suggest?
While most studies focus on the problems of physical partner disturbance during the night and the assumption that having another restless body in the bed will disrupt one’s sleep, this particular research project throws up some interesting counter points focused on REM sleep. REM sleep has been linked to regulation of emotions, memory consolidation, social interactions, creative problem solving and other factor.
The team found that couples often synchronize their sleep patterns when sleeping together. The higher participants rated the significance of their relationship to their life overall, the stronger the sleep synchronisation.
Researchers also found an increased limb movement in couples who share a bed, but this was not found to disrupt the quality of the sleep, surprisingly. Dr Drew explains that “while your body is a bit unrulier when sleeping with somebody, your brain is not.”
In light of these findings, researchers propose a positive feedback loop in which sleeping together enhances and stabilizes REM sleep. This in turn has the potential to improve our social abilities and reduce emotional stress throughout the day.
Dr Drew expresses his desire to study this subject further with a “more diverse sample”, such as with elderly couples, couples in which one partner is suffering from an illness, and same-sex couples.
A few simple steps can improve your sleep
Whether or not you sleep alone, there are steps you can take to improve the quality of your sleep. Your bedroom should be considered as a haven for sleep, meaning it shouldn’t be used for much else. Keep your bedroom cool and dark, and avoid bright lights and screens in the run up to bedtime, including your smartphone. Reading or meditating in the hour before bed is a great alternative to scrolling through social media, as they will help your mind unwind and relax.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol as these can hinder the quality of your sleep, and aim to go to bed and get up at the same time every day in order to get your body used to a set routine.
Sleeping on a Mammoth mattress with a partner also reduces the physical partner disturbance caused by restlessness and regular movement, suggesting that all of the benefits of a shared bed mentioned above feature fewer of the drawbacks commonly associated with sleep partner disturbance. This is achieved thanks to the independently moving PostureCells™ featured in Mammoth’s Medical Grade™ foam technology.