Michael Hunter, MD on Medika Life

Sleep With a Partner for More Restful Sleep: Yes or No?

“We should meet in another life, we should meet in air, me and you.” ― Sylvia Plath

IS HAVING THE WHOLE BED TO YOURSELF BETTER? I am betting that you would guess that sleeping alone would give you more restful sleep. Surely, avoiding someone with insomnia or who is all over the place when they sleep is better, right?

Perhaps not. A new study demonstrates the benefits of co-sleeping: Less severe insomnia, lower levels of fatigue, and more sleep time.

Let’s take a look at this new eye-opening research investigation.

Sleeping with a partner

“One of the keys to a successful marriage is separate bathrooms. When he enters my bathroom sometimes I’m like, ‘Why are you in here?’ And he’s like, ‘I live here. Can I enjoy my bathroom, too?’” — Michelle Obama

In their new study, “Bed Sharing Versus Sleeping Alone Associated with Sleep Health and Mental Health,” researchers from the University of Arizona (USA) explored whether sharing a bed was associated with sleep duration and quality and mental health factors.

Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

Scientists used data from 1,007 working-age adults in southeastern Pennsylvania (USA). The researchers assessed bed-sharing with survey items assessing frequency in the past month of sharing a bed with a partner, child, pet, other family members, or nobody (sleeping alone).

They also looked at health indicators such as the Insomnia Severity Index, Brief Index of Sleep Control, Epworth Sleepiness Scale, Fatigue Severity Scale, STOP-BANG apnea score, sleep duration, sleep latency, and wake after sleep onset.

The researchers also evaluated mental health, overall life satisfaction, and relationship satisfaction. Co-variables included age, sex, race/ethnicity, income, and education.

Sleeping alone or with others: Study results

Here are the overall conclusions of the study authors:

Sleeping with a partner/spouse is associated with better sleep quality and mental health overall. On the other hand, sleeping with a child appears to be associated with worse sleep.

Let’s look in a bit more detail at the findings:

  • Adult partner. Sleeping with an adult partner is associated with falling asleep faster, staying asleep longer, and having less sleep apnea.
  • Child. Sleeping with a child appeared to be associated with higher odds of sleep apnea, more severe insomnia, and less control over their sleep.
  • Alone. Sleeping alone appeared associated with indicators of depression and lower social support and life and relationship satisfaction.

The study authors speculate that safety or socialization may be at the root of the findings. Throughout most of history, for example, humans tended to sleep in groups around a fire. It may be that people feel safer when another adult is in bed.

The findings are contrary to those from a lab setting that discovered people sleeping together had more shallow slumber and that a partner’s movements tended to cause brain arousal.

Sleeping alone or with others: My take

Perhaps sleeping in a room together (but not the same bed) might be even better? For those with space and resources, do twin beds in a single room work even better than a single larger bed for two? I look forward to learning more in the future.

Oh, one more thing — please go here for some tips from Sleep Foundation on sleeping better:

Sleep Foundation | Trusted Sleep Health Information and Product Reviews Latest Articles Medically Reviewed by Dr. Anis Rehman Learn what may be causing your excessive sleepiness. It could be…www.sleepfoundation.org.


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Michael Hunter, MD
Michael Hunter, MD
I received an undergraduate degree from Harvard, a medical degree from Yale, and trained in radiation oncology at the University of Pennsylvania. I practice radiation oncology in the Seattle area.

Michael Hunter, MD

I received an undergraduate degree from Harvard, a medical degree from Yale, and trained in radiation oncology at the University of Pennsylvania. I practice radiation oncology in the Seattle area.

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