Sleep Resources

From Sex to Sleeping Positions: A Complete Guide to Couples Sleep

By Jennifer Walker-Journey

Do you love your partner, but hate sharing the bed? In a survey of 1,000 Americans, we found that approximately 30% admit that, while they love their partner, they miss having the bed to themselves. We couldn’t help but wonder, what does this say about relationships that we wish we were sleeping in our own beds? “The significance of sleeping apart depends on the cause,” explains Dr. Patricia Celan, a Psychiatry resident at Dalhousie University in Canada. “If two people sleep apart because they no longer feel emotionally connected, they’re not in love, or because they just had a fight, then not sleeping together would be a worrying sign. However, if two people sleep apart because they are otherwise unable to be well-rested, then the decision to get a ‘sleep divorce’ is not a reflection on the relationship at all. If anything, it’s a sign that the couple is able to identify their problem (exhaustion caused by co-sleeping), their need (undisturbed sleep), and a solution (sleep separately). Those couples are more likely to succeed than the ones who are constantly angry at each other for a sleepless night due to snoring.”

If you have just started to share a bed nightly with your partner, you may just need some more time to adjust to having an additional occupant in your bed. “It’s perfectly understandable if it will take you quite some time, or never at all, to adjust to sharing your bed,” says DatingScout Dating Expert, Chris Pleines. “It’s all about our sensitivities.” Sharing a bed with your partner is truly an art that can take some time to perfect. 

In our survey, we asked what factors people thought were contributing the most to not sleeping well with their partners. We found that the temperature of the room and specific sleeping position, followed by snoring and bed size, were the top contributors to poor sleep quality. We know how important a good night’s sleep is, so in this guide, we will detail why certain factors are causing you and your partner not to sleep well, and what are some actionable steps you can take to improve bedtime. 

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How Your Sleep Impacts Your Sex Life 

If sleep issues with your bed partner can’t be easily resolved, perhaps a sleep divorce is in order. But that doesn’t mean your sex life has to suffer. In fact, since you’ll both enjoy better sleep, you’ll be far better rested for a little whoopie. 

“You actually get to carve out time,” New York clinical psychologist and life coach Jill Lanker told USA Today. “You get to do it in a way that is intended and not sort of expected.”

Scheduling sex dates can give you something to look forward to as well as add a jolt of energy to your relationship. And that can have even longer-lasting benefits. According to researchers at Wilkes University of Pennsylvania, students who had sex once or twice a week had higher levels of immune-building antibodies, making them better able to fend off viruses and other germs. Regular sex can also lower blood pressure, raise your heart rate, and keep your sex hormones in balance.  

Whether you sleep with your significant other, or apart, the key is to continually check in with your partner. You’ll both have your own weird sleeping patterns and rituals; so, meet in the middle. Talk it out and define the best case where you can both get some rest.

Getting Your Best Sleep With A Partner

Research has shown that sleeping with someone you care about can help you sleep more soundly. It can also promote intimacy, which can be beneficial to your health and wellbeing. But sometimes sharing a bed — even with someone you love — can be anything but restful. 

Before you pack up and move into a separate bedroom, let’s take a look at some of the issues that may be disrupting sleep with your bed partner. Maybe you can address the issues before resorting to a “sleep divorce.”

Bed Size & Type

A queen-size bed offers plenty of room if you sleep spooned together all night long. But let’s face it, when you’re ready to drift asleep, it’s easier when you’re not tangled up in someone’s arms and legs. Not only can it get uncomfortable, but it can also get hot. Additionally, if your partner is a combination sleeper who changes positions throughout the night, you can guarantee it won’t be very restful especially if your mattress doesn’t have superior motion isolation

Couples Coach and marriage counselor, Kim Leatherdale, says, “It can take longer or shorter to get comfortable sharing a bed with your partner depending on a variety of factors, especially how big the bed is, and what type of mattress you have.” Typically, innersprings and hybrids are easier to move around on and have more support around the edge allowing you and your partner to use the full surface of the bed. 

King-size and California king beds offer plenty of room to spread out without rolling onto or kicking your bed mate. The main difference between a standard king and a California king mattress is a matter of inches. A standard king measures 80 inches long by 76 inches wide, whereas a California king is slightly longer at 84 inches, and narrower, at 72 inches wide. 

Room Temperature

There’s a sweet spot when it comes to thermometer settings and getting a good night’s sleep, according to H. Craig Heller, PhD, professor of biology at Stanford University and author of a medical textbook on the subject. A mild drop in body temperature induces sleep, but if your room is too cold or too hot, then you’re likely to wake up in the middle of the night either grabbing more blankets to keep you warm or kicking off covers to cool down.  

The best nighttime thermometer setting is usually between 65 and 72 degrees. But that can vary depending on the sleeper. And if you are a lot more cold-natured than your partner, then you could have an issue on your hands. 

Compromise is key if to avoid “sleep divorce” due to temperature differences. If you can’t adjust the thermostat to see if there is a happy middle ground, then consider changing your sheets. Microfiber sheets offer more warmth whereas cotton is more breathable and sleeps cooler. If you are a hot sleeper, look for naturally cooling latex pillows or memory foam ones infused with cooling gels. But be aware that memory foam without cooling technology can sleep hot. 

Sleeping Positions 

You may have heard that you and your partner’s sleeping position speaks volumes about your relationship. At least that’s what some researchers suggest, including Patti Wood, body language expert, and author of Success Signals, a Guide to Reading Body Language. Sleeping with someone is an intimate experience. If there’s tension or distance between the two of you, it may be revealed in the way you and your partner sleep together 

Whether you’re the “spooner” or the “spoonee,” also known as the big and little spoon, some people have to un-cuddle before they can nod off to sleep. Especially if they are used to a particular sleep position.

There are four main sleep positions — side, back, stomach, and combination. Most people sleep on their sides, which is probably why spooning is so popular. Combination sleepers are people who toss and turn from one position to the next throughout the night. If you’re cuddled up with a combination sleeper, chances are you’ll be rattled awake at some point during the night. However, don’t think separating to your own sides of the bed for sleep means you should forego cuddling. There are tremendous benefits to physical touch. It releases oxytocin, the “love hormone,” that helps bind you emotionally. Just remember to roll over to your side of the bed before you nod off. Even if you aren’t touching, you can still sleep close and reap the benefits of closeness. 

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Having a bedtime routine is ideal for getting babies and children wound down for a good night’s sleep. But it can be beneficial for adults as well. Consider establishing pre-sleep rituals, such as listening to soft music or guided meditations together in bed before you drift off. Sleep rituals can help you fall asleep while also strengthening your bond as a couple. 

What if you are a night owl and your partner is an early bird? You’re not alone. An un-synced bedtime doesn’t have to spell disaster for your relationship. In fact, it may serve as a solution to other issues. For example, if your partner snores loudly for the first hour after he drifts asleep, you’re smart to wait until he’s moved on to a quieter phase before crawling into bed with him. 

Togetherness is lovely, but a little alone time — even at bedtime — can do wonders for the soul. You can watch whatever you want on TV while your partner unwinds from his day in bed without you.

However, if one of you becomes anxious because you associate your partner’s absence as a sign of conflict or avoidance, it could signal tension in the relationship that may need to be addressed through communication or counseling. 

Cover stealers

Nobody likes a blanket hog — that person who yanks the covers away from their partner in the middle of the night. But can this unconscious sleep habit be broken? One self-professed blanket stealer says yes. 

Here are some tips for keeping covered while sleeping with a blanket hoarder:

  •       Share your mattress, but have separate sheets or blankets.
  •       Crank up the heat.
  •       Wake your partner and tell her to stop stealing.
  •       Install clamps to keep your sheets in place even when someone tries to steal them.
  •       Give up trying and put on warmer pajamas.

Use Technology to Your Advantage 

How did we ever live without a smartphone, tablet, or laptop? Technology has improved our lives immensely, giving us whatever we want at the touch of a button. But the good has come with a price. Research shows that these wonderfully high-tech products can stunt your good sleep

Your cell phone, tablet, laptop, and even TV might be great outlets to help you fall asleep. However, gazing at them before bedtime may actually stimulate your mind rather than wind it down for slumber. 

Even more bothersome, the light these devices give off can be distracting as well. It can block the release of the sleep hormone melatonin for hours after you’ve turned off your device. If you and your bed partner are in pursuit of better sleep, make a pact to turn off your devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime, and not continually check them during the night. 

But that doesn’t mean all technology is bad for sleep. For example, white noise machines block out your partner’s snoring, quiet air purifiers and humidifiers can remedy your stuffy nose and allergies, adjustable beds can shift you into more comfortable positions, and even CPAP machines aim to tame your distracting sleep apnea.

Sleep Disorders

Sleep can be challenging for anyone with a sleep disorder. It can be just as bad for their sleeping partner. Here, we take a closer look at common sleep disorders and what you can do about them.


As many as 45% of people are “sometimes snorers,” while up to 25% snore every night. Snoring occurs when the tissues in the mouth fall to the back of the throat and vibrate as you breathe. Whether your partner’s making a high-pitched whistle or a deep, throaty rattle, snoring is hugely distracting when you’re trying to fall asleep. 

 Here are some practical solutions you can try to quell those noisy snoring attacks:

  •       Limit or avoid alcohol before bedtime. Alcohol can relax the muscles in your throat and make you more likely to snore. 
  •       Lose weight. Even a small loss of weight can reduce the pressure fat puts on your neck, chest, and belly, thus reducing snoring.
  •       Change your sleep position. People tend to snore more while lying on their backs. If your bed partner starts snoring, try pushing him over onto his side. 
  •       Raise the head of your bed either with wedge pillows or — better yet — an adjustable bed. 
Acid Reflux

Acid reflux occurs when acid flows back up into the esophagus. This causes irritation, inflammation, and heartburn pain. It can also make you snore, cough, and jolt awake. Acid reflux is more serious than occasional heartburn. Over time, the acid can narrow the esophagus and cause problems with swallowing; create painful sores or ulcers in the esophagus or stomach; or lead to a condition called Barrett’s syndrome, a precursor to esophageal cancer. 

But there are some things you can do to limit attacks of acid reflux: 

  •       Cut back on food and beverage triggers, such as alcohol, carbonated beverages, caffeine, cooked tomato sauces, spicy foods, and high-fat foods. 
  •       Try over-the-counter or prescription acid-reducing medications.
  •       Raise the head of your bed with either wedge pillows or an adjustable bed.
  •       Lose a little weight. Yep, overweight people are more likely to suffer from acid reflux than people of average weight. 
Sleep Apnea 

Sleep apnea, also called obstructive sleep apnea, occurs when your tongue and the tissues in your mouth fall back into your throat and block your windpipe. It’s similar to snoring except with sleep apnea the snoring is accompanied by moments of pauses during which you stop breathing. This makes you choke, cough, or gasp, and wakes you repeatedly throughout the night. Sleep apnea can be dangerous if it causes low blood oxygen levels. If you suspect you or your bedmate has sleep apnea, talk with your healthcare provider.  

Some sleep apnea treatments include:

  •       Elevating the head of your bed with wedge pillows or with an adjustable mattress. 
  •       Lose weight.
  •       Doctors will often prescribe a CPAP, which is a machine that increases air pressure in your throat to prevent your airway from collapsing when you breathe during sleep.
Restless Leg Syndrome   

Restless leg syndrome or RLS (also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease) is a condition that causes an unpleasant itching, crawling, pulling, aching, throbbing, or pins-and-needles sensation in the legs that makes you want to move them. This nasty sensation usually occurs in the evenings and is more severe at night when you’re trying to sleep. As you can imagine, RLS interferes with the sufferer’s sleep, but can also bother the person they’re sleeping with. 

Some remedies for RLS include:

  •       Walking around before bedtime can help shake out those unpleasant sensations. 
  •       Talk with your doctor to see if medication is an option. 

Sleepwalking (technically called somnambulism) is when you get out of bed and walk around often with a glazed, glassy-eyed expression. It is more common in children, and most outgrow it in their teens. But adults can still experience isolated incidents of sleepwalking. While sleepwalking doesn’t generally require treatment, it could suggest an underlying sleep disorder. 

If your sleeping partner sleepwalks, the most important thing to do is to protect them from injuries related to sleepwalking, such as falling down stairs or falling out of a window. It’s best to talk to a doctor if sleepwalking happens often, leads to dangerous behavior, causes excessive sleepiness the next day, or creates significant sleep disruptions to others in the household. 

One way to reduce episodes of sleepwalking is to reduce triggers such as: 

  •       Sleep deprivation
  •       Stress
  •       Sleep schedule disturbances
Sleep Terrors 

Sleep terrors, or night terrors, are episodes of screaming, intense fear, and flailing while still asleep. They often go hand-in-hand with sleepwalking. Sleep terrors are more common in children, but can also occur in adults. As with sleepwalking, if your sleeping partner has a night terror, you’ll want to protect him from injury, if possible. But you’ll also want to protect yourself as well. 

You can reduce triggers such as sleep deprivation, stress, and sleep schedule disturbances. But, if the night terrors happen frequently, it’s a good idea to consult with a doctor. Sleep terrors can also be caused by underlying conditions such as:

  •       Obstructive sleep apnea or other sleep-disordered breathing
  •       Restless leg syndrome
  •       Some medications
  •       Depression or anxiety
  •       Alcohol 
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