For many couples, going to sleep together creates a feeling of security and mutual affection. But how does sleep affect our relationship? And how does our relationship affect our sleep?
In many relationships, sleeping behaviour develops along similar lines. Initially, both partners sleep with a large amount of body contact. Later on, they take up more space for themselves, and each person sleeps on their side of the bed. However, regardless of where they sleep in the bed, both partners (in happy relationships) sleep better when they share the same bed. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that couples who don’t sleep in the same bed have an unhappy relationship! Some couples, including those who are happy together, feel more comfortable sleeping in separate rooms. The important thing is that both partners can get a good night’s sleep. This is a problem, for example, when one partner snores. We recommend that you discuss your sleeping arrangements with your partner, as it’s important that you are both able to sleep well.
If both partners have had enough sleep, there is less potential for conflict in the relationship.
Couples who have been together for many years often feel more contented with their relationship if they sleep for longer hours. Good sleep hygiene is important for sufficient quantity and quality of sleep. A partner can help create this sleep hygiene in the right way and on a regular basis. A high quality of sleep can also lead to better satisfaction in your relationship and sex life.
Conversely, your partnership also impacts your sleep quality. If you are not happy in your relationship, or if you are going through a difficult time together, your stress levels increase and you start to worry more before going to sleep. Negative feelings, and criticism from a partner, even if it’s just subjectively perceived, can have a negative influence on quality of sleep. This can trigger a vicious circle, since a night of tossing and turning can cause an increase in negative feelings, such as upset following perceived criticism from your partner. Conflicts are more easily resolved when both partners have had a good night’s sleep. Discuss your problems calmly with your partner after you’ve slept well and not when you’re feeling tired.
You’ll find information about the different chronotypes here. If you consider how wide the gap is between the times that extreme night owls and extreme early risers get to sleep, the question quickly arises as to whether “like attracts like” also applies to the chronotypes. It’s not an easy question to answer. At the start of their relationships, partners tend to be happier when they have similar sleeping habits. This could be because initially, we want to spend a lot of time with our partner. Couples who have been together for many years often have a similar sleep pattern, for example due to a shared social rhythm.
One study has confirmed that it is very unlikely that extreme night owls and extreme early risers will get together as partners. Researchers explain this by saying that in this extreme situation, the amount of time that couples spend together is very little, and that as a result, there isn’t the opportunity for them to become close. This means that being a similar chronotype is important for a long and happy relationship. However, of course, your chronotype is not everything. A happy relationship can also withstand different sleep patterns. The important thing is to talk to your partner and to develop mutual understanding for each other.
Talk to your partner about your relationship and your sleep! These two factors have a mutual impact on each other. It’s easier to talk over your problems when you’ve both had enough sleep.
Tell each other about your dreams. This increases the bond within a relationship and can be an indicator of what is troubling you or what you want to change. However, don’t be tempted to over-interpret your sleeping habits.
It doesn’t matter what time you go to sleep as long as you both feel happy with the situation. Whether you are curled up together, lie back to back or each sleep in separate rooms, the important thing is that you sleep well.
Another study looked at how dreams impact relationships, and vice-versa. Researchers discovered that around 80% of couples tell each other about their dreams, and that they do so at least once a month. This forges a bond and strengthens the relationship. Talking about your dreams can also be helpful if you have nightmares. Dreams should be narrated, but should not be over-interpreted.
Usually, the relationship is reflected in people’s dreams. In 20-30% of dreams, the partner appears directly, with the number of dreams about partners increasing when partners spend more time together during their waking hours. When it comes to sexual dreams, the dreamer’s own partner only appears between 30-50% of the time.