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March 27, 2014

A tale of two beds


I have trouble sleeping.

I'm not alone. Nearly 40 million men and women suffer from sleep disorders, ranging from insomnia to sleep apnea to snoring, just to name a few.

I haven't slept through the night since I was a teenager. That said, during my 20s and 30s, I could fall sleep anywhere and pretty much at any time. Hardwood floors with a blanket? Done. Naps at 2:30 p.m. and still be able to fall asleep later that night? Yes, please! Sleeping was something I did with confidence and ease. I never imagined it would fall into the "Great, Now That's an Issue, Too" category. I never viewed it as a luxury.

When I hit my 40s, the shit started to hit the sleeping fan. More trips to the bathroom in the wee hours of the night. More difficulty falling asleep. More difficulty staying asleep. You know the drill. Or, if you're lucky, you don't.

In 2009, it reached a breaking point for me. I started to have what I can only describe as near panic attacks at bed time. The cause? The anticipation of yet another wrinkle in my already-challenging quest for sleep: my husband's snoring.

A little backstory: we have no spare rooms in our home and at the time, we had precisely zero couches that you could comfortably grab a few Zs on. After a few completely sleepless nights—and I wish I remembered this more clearly—I basically freaked out and begged Dan to sleep on our futon couch.

In the basement.

And what do you know, he actually agreed.

I won't say it solved my sleep problems, but it solved my pre-bedtime anxiety issues. I had the bedroom to myself and I felt simultaneously overjoyed and sheepishly guilty.

There's another piece to this story that has to be included: this all happened about three months before Dan and I started working with a therapist, a woman we still work with to this day. See, things weren't really all that great between us. On the surface, we looked like any other normal family, but below the shiny veneer we were kind of lost and lacked any real understanding of what the hell was going wrong in our marriage.

Dan told me, weeks after moving to the basement, he felt a sense of relief and freedom from the guilt I was heaping onto him for keeping me awake. It was a relief for him to not be around his difficult wife. And believe me, if I was ever having issues, he was the first person I would blame tell.

Let's put that aside for a few minutes, okay?

Dan is not a crazy snorer. He does not saw logs in his sleep. That said, I am the lightest sleeper to ever walk this green Earth. So any snoring of any kind, to my ears, sounds like an auditory assault. But having Dan live in the basement wasn't a viable, long-term solution. Imagine that!

So eventually I purchased a sound machine, numerous boxes of ear plugs and a second bed.

We pushed our queen bed to one corner and the new twin bed to the other of our decidedly small "master" bedroom. Combining that with the artificially generated white noise, ear plugs and 6 feet of separating distance, we began the experiment of two people and two beds.

And it worked. Ward and June Cleaver be damned. (And yes, the work we'd been doing in therapy didn't exactly hurt, either.)

I remember, however, hoping that no one would come over, glance into our room and upon seeing two beds, wonder, "What's going on with them?" 

In fact, when I bought the bed from the Macy's Home Store, I told the sales person I needed a bed for a spare room because a relative was coming to stay. I invented both a make-believe Aunt and a spare bedroom rather than explain my weird solution for my sleep issues.

Of course, the truthful answer would have been: I am working on my marriage, my personal development and better sleep, but at the time I was afraid to share this story out of shame and the fear of being judged by others.

Today, I don't have that particular fear. And guess what? Nearly everyone judges everyone all the time. I speak from personal experience and that's one of the things I'm consciously working to change in myself.

Today, we have pushed the beds together to create what we affectionately refer to as our Super Bed. I sleep a little better. He snores a little less. I still have nights where I can't sleep. I toss and turn like a fish on a dock. Hot flashes have introduced yet another sleep wrinkle. I try all kinds of things: lowering my caffeine intake, avoiding blue light devices in the evenings, melatonin tabs, valerian tea, diffusing essential oils. I do not walk around sleep deprived. The quality of sleep I get, however sporadic, is enough to keep me healthy and alert.

And we continue to work on our marriage almost every day.

My therapist told me two things: 1) some couples cannot sleep in the same bed for very real reasons and 2) I was punishing Dan by making him live in the basement.

I'm still working though Number 2 and the truth behind it. There are still nights when I snag sleep on our newer couch that can accommodate a human body comfortably. 

But I share my tale of two beds because sometimes you have to try all sorts of things to make something work. 

Sometimes it helps to realize that the nuclear idea of happily snoozing couples isn't necessarily reality for everyone.

And sometimes, doing something unconventional is exactly what is needed.






My hubby and I both have bad backs and sleep in two twin adjustable beds. We have a healthy happy marriage and we both get a good nights rest. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. I think this is becoming more common too.

Simply put - you're awesome! No judging here...

No judging at all! I've considered separate beds - even considered separate rooms! We finally have a guest bedroom with a queen bed now that the oldest has left the nest permanently. I do intend to take advantage the next time hubby's snoring keeps me awake!

I say let people judge... Usually the best ideas that really work are the most unconventional ones! And if it works for you guys and keeps it so that you both get a good night sleep while still being pretty close to each other, that's awesome! :)

I think it's the other person's loss when they make judgements, not yours. I cop it a bit because me and my partner don't have a TV, nor do we want one. It works for us, so why cave to other people's pressure?

I'm glad you guys have a great idea that works :)

Nope you are not alone. Both Nick & I snore. But I'm lucky, I can sleep through his (which IS the sound of sawing wood). But he can't sleep properly with mine. Along with anxiety issues similar to yours, I recognise the plight both you & he share. On top of that, there's the bad backs and endless mattresses we've tried lol. And we both have different internal alarms, I'm a lark, he's an owl. But we're fine with it. It's something we muddle through, like everyone else. I'd be surprised if you were judged harshly. I have a sneaky suspicion that those of us in long term relationships and who have hit a certain age, have very similar tales to tell. It's stars like you who open up and tell your stories and let those who worry about it all alone, thinking they are the only couple going through it, know that the world or even your next door neighbour, is going through similar. Keep being that star my lovely. Pxx

I never wanted to be one of THOSE couples who quit sleeping together. But now, after 43 (pretty happy) years of marriage---I'M the one causing the problem. Who knew that I would begin to snore in my "somewhat" older age! He goes to the couch regularly. Oh well, better him than me!

YOU are not the lightest sleeper on the face of the earth because I am that person! Staying asleep at night is the kicker. I don't think I've slept through the night in years and I'm jealous of anyone who does. I feel your pain, Cathy. Thankfully, my husband is not a snorer because I can't imagine what it would be like to throw that into the mix!

Separate bed sleepers here too! My hubby and I have two adjustable twin beds pushed together and haven't slept better since we got them. We always joke to each other to "Mind the Gap!" I think it may be more common than you realize. I do however jump ship during allergy season when my husband's snoring is off the rails and head for the guest room.

You are awesome. That is all.

Fabulous! No judging here. Truth be told, should I ever have an opportunity to share a bed ever again there will be two beds - and a long hallway in between :) I've told my kids that every home, if you can, should have a his and a her bedroom - and bathroom.

Thanks. I felt a little scared to push the publish button on this. Old habits of fear of judging die hard.

Okay, im having a rough morning, and you just made me weepy. In the best of ways. You know we are going to have a pint together some day. Mark my words.

Totally understand sleep issues. Hubby can fall asleep in 7 seconds (I know - because I've timed him!). And he snores too! But, then so do I - so hubby says. And I toss and turn to fall asleep and I have uncontrollable coughing fits with the door closed which wakes hubby up. We use a Hunter floor fan - even in the dead of winter when it's cold. The fan offers me that 'sound' to latch onto that isn't snoring and because it is on my side of the bed it moves the air effectively and thus solves my own problem of a potential coughing fit in the middle of the night because the door is closed.

I have a friend who's grandmother told her that as long as both the husband and wife (or partner, etc) are agreeable to what goes on behind the bedroom door, its OK! Now, she wasn't talking about this but I think it still holds true. If this works for you, why would anyone care on bit??? You were so very brave to put this out there, i have to tell you! Great reading.

You are not alone. We are practically twins with snoring hubby and working on the relationship. I sleep in a different room, and as a coiple we are at our highest point in years. Thanks for sharing. I love your blog and your designs.

My parents have been married for 37 years. After my father retired from the military he started driving truck. During that time he was gone more than he was home and they got used to sleeping apart. When Dad stopped driving truck they started having issues because once again they were sharing a bedroom/ bed again and they both snore (though they have both snored for as long as I can remember) but they got used to not hearing each other. Now that the kids are gone they have separate bedrooms, on separate floors even (Dad likes the cold basement, Mom doesn't like the stairs and there are 2 Masters in the house). It works for them!
I am glad that you guys found something that works for you.

I love that you share truth. No matter how scary it is to hit the post button. You are a risk taker, Cathy. Those of us who read your posts love you for it. I think it is more common for long-relationship couples to have the sleep issues because we're honest and real about problems. We're not afraid to say, "Hey. Your snoring is killing me or keep your freakin' cold feet away from my warm ones." What solved the issue of listening to my husband snore was when I got my CPAP machine. Just enough white noise to take care of it, well almost. At least now it's manageable and I don't wake up nearly as often. I also asked him to wear socks to bed to keep those cold feet away from me. :-)

As a relatively-newly-wed girl I'm so happy when married women share there realities! Oh, man does it make all the issues we might face a little easier! You do what works for you. You adjust what doesn't work until it does and you constantly readjust. We try to remember compromise makes this thing doable, and sometimes the compromise looks funny to the outside world. Whatevs. I love that you let it be whatever it needs to be. I hope we can be the kind of people that do what it takes to stick, too. Separate beds, gadgets, ear plugs? Absolutely. Whatever works for you. Thank you, Cathy!

After kids, 8 hours of sleep became an elusive dream for me. When the kids were finally sleeping through the night, I was still waking up at 2am. More often than not, my husband would be snoring. I'd smack him on the back, he would roll over on his side and stop. Then, just as I was relaxing back into sleep..he would start snoring again. The the adrenaline rush of being angry kept me up for hours.

We finally admitted to ourselves that we just did not have compatible sleep styles. He goes into the back bedroom, opens the window in all sorts of weather and snores to his hearts content. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I can turn on the light and read until I get tired again instead of laying there in the dark hating him for sleeping so well. We both get better sleep and we're both better spouses in the morning.

Thank you so much, Cathy, for this courageous post. I have struggled with shame about these issues. I have terrible insomnia, any little sound will wake me. I can't sleep with anyone, even my young kids. Have even lost a perfectly good relationship over it. Having slept alone now for several years, I'm not sure I ever can again. I wish more people could talk about this. Makes me feel less isolated and strange. Sleep is so important to health. I fiercely protect what little I get. Not everyone understands that.

Honestly, the older I get, the more you just need to go with what works for you. In life, in the bedroom, in the everyday. If there is a 'norm', I have yet to find it and it's probably not in our house. Ha!! Kudos to you for putting this out there! There always is so much judgement and seriously, there shouldn't be. This may sound 'hippy-ish' (is that even a word?!?) but the world would be much better with love and acceptance.

Thank-you on so many levels. I have never been a good sleeper and every time I read one of those stories about sleep and longevity I panic. I'm good for about 4-5 hours a night and from there is it's a crap shoot. I'm also encouraged by the marriage piece of this story. My thought is that marriage would be a piece of cake if life didn't get in the way. After 41 years mine is still a work in progress. Last year at this time I was thinking how grand life would be if I just had my own little 500ft tiny house in a field of wheat. Your story isn't perfect, it's about two people working together because good relationships don't come easy. It takes a lot of love to wake up each day and say we're going to make this thing work ~ totally worth it!

I've always said our homes should be like those old castles in the romance novels - his bedroom and her bedroom separated by a dressing room or corridor - perfecto. I think we ended up in this one bed idea because of economics (and sex). No judging here as my husband and I share separate sleeping arrangements - he's a thrasher, a cover hogger, a deep sleeper and to boot he snores hard. I'd wake up gripping the edge of the bed or having a leg or arm suddenly hit me in the middle of the night. And no matter what you said to him he wouldn't budge. In our next house we will have two queen beds - adjustable to boot! Thanks for sharing. You are not alone!

I love that you share your truth with the world! The hubby and I do share a *gasp* full sized bed, but we learned very early on that we each had to have our own comforters to sleep happily. He hugs the wall and I sleep comfortably on the edge of the bed...gotta do what works to get all the sleep you need, we say!

My husband is a TERRIBLE sleeper. I sleep in the guest room half the time to give him and me a break. No big deal!

We recently bought a king size bed & it has changed how we sleep completely, we used to spoon all night long turning in sync...since the king size there is plenty of space for each of us & hardly any spoons for the times when we do share the bed. He works away for long, long stretches & when he is home I find it harder to fall asleep than usual. He is hot, but doesn't feel the heat, it radiates off of him & heat me up (me who has suddenly become the hottest person in the universe, summer pj's & just a sheet in atumn!) & then I get too hot. He moves. He snores. Even his breathing is annoying. He messes up the blankets. But the first night after he leaves I reach out for him & miss all of the above that I have been moaning about! We also have our almost 4 year old daughter camped out on her old cot mattress at the end of our bed because it makes mornings nicer with no big sisters waking her up. She is a hot sleeper too & the heat they both radiate has me gasping for fresh air.

How perfectly timed! My hubby has horrible allergies right now and is shaking the walls of our house with his snoring. I'm a light sleeper to begin with, so this is really tough. We share a king bed and two nights ago the snoring was so loud that I wanted to smother him with a pillow (I really do love him and don't usually have murderous incliinations). Instead I got out the earplugs and remembered that we do have a guest room. I was just too tired to get out of bed to move to it. No judgement here, just complete understanding.

Beautifully written and a perfect description of marriage.

I love this story Cathy!!! My husband and I slept in separate rooms for years because I was the snorer and my husband the light sleeper. I just recently heard an interesting idea about sleeping in separate rooms/beds for couples. It is based on the idea that when we sleep, we recharge our energy bodies and sometimes a couples' energy disturb each other and they actually NEED separate sleeping space.

Another "woo woo" thing to try is to do figure 8 motions with your hands between yourself and your bed and visualize how you want to create a wonderful night's sleep. It helps connect your energy!

Happy Restorative Sleep to your always!!

We lived in two separate households for a year and a half so that our daughter could go to a better high school an hour away. His business was in one town, her school in another so I moved with her. We started to really value our own beds and space! He goes to bed early and I am a night owl. I also have sleep issues related to ADHD and hormones. We are back in one house now and it's ok but the day will come when we have a bigger house with our own sleeping spaces, or even more than one household again, and we will for sure make arrangements to have out own space. For some, it may be a necessity for harmonious living!! You go, girl!

Together for 23 years, we are separate sleepers too and have been for many years!! The day after we got married, 15 years ago, my husband started to snore...I kid you not. We had lived together for years and he didn’t snore, though he was a horrible sleeper (moving and sweating and talking...good grief). I am a LIGHT sleeper. So that was fun (not). When we bought our first home I was ecstatic because it had a second bedroom. We started sleeping apart the week we moved in. And then...oh then...I got pregnant and our second bedroom was gone..Poof. As you can imagine, new mommy, lack of sleep coupled with bad sleep with a snorer...let me add in he was in medical residency and on call (literally the pager and phone went off all night long several nights a week). I can’t even remember much of those years!! We moved into our current home and there was no doubt...we had the room...he would have to sleep apart from me. Years later, we still do it. He recently found out he has severe sleep apnea and has to wear a CPAP machine when he sleeps. He works nights and sleeps during the day (so we naturally wouldn’t sleep together anyway much of the time). Magically, his snoring stopped the first night he used the machine. And we slept in the same bed for the first time in years. It was wonderful. However, when I suggested we start sharing a bed again, my husband looked at me like I was nuts. He said, “Why?” Honestly, I didn’t really care if we did. It is nice now to have that option. Before, we literally had to rent houses on vacation just so he could have a bedroom because none of us could sleep near him! He was SOOOO loud. This year, without hesitation, we rented a house with just two bedrooms. I didn’t even pause about it because I know I can share the bed with him for the week ( I’m nervous). So, all that to say...every person is different. There is no right or wrong. You and Dan have been together for decades...raised two wonderful kids...lived alot of life together. Whether or not you share a bed or a bedroom doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. Doing what you need to in order to live together...that’s what matters!!

My husband and I have separate beds too. He has back issues and snores. I have knee issues. He used to sleep on the couch until I felt guilty for sleeping in a big bed while he was cramped on the couch. Two beds works for us just fine and if people don't understand or agree, then pooh pooh on them!

You are such a breath of fresh air! I love that you are so real. I have been reading your blog for well over a decade and some of your life is so in sync with mine. It helps me deal so much better. And feel less alone in this challenge we call life.

My husband has sleep apnea. He was in denial of it for almost a decade. With the lack of sleep, I just couldn't function anymore. I was waking up so much it was like we still had a newborn in the house! So I spent most nights in one of my kid's beds.

Now that he has a cpap and his snoring is gone, you would think I am back to sleeping in our super comfy king size bed. Nope. Once in a while I'll sleep in our bed but I gotta admit, it feels weird. I don't sleep peacefully because I am still waiting for that big loud snore or gasp of air waking me up and keeping me awake for hours on end. So it's baby steps for now.

I'm thankful you hit the publish button. Makes me admire you even more than I already did. And that's pretty big to top! ;)

I think the scenario of separate beds, if not separate rooms is far more common than most people think, or would admit to! My partner and sleep in separate rooms for various reasons. We both snore but I am a light sleeper who is often awake from 4 am, he falls asleep almost instantly and sleeps through the night. He sleeps under a sheet, I sleep under a very thick duvet. Added to all of this are various health problems so the whole separate room thing was the perfect answer for us. Like you we are both still working hard at our relationship and we try not to judge other people. At the end of the day we love each other a lot but if we had to sleep in the same bed one of us would likely murder the other out of sheer frustration and sleep deprivation.

My husband and I can totally relate. He gets up to use the bathroom every 2 hours all night long; I am in menopause(sp?)and wake up at the slightest noise/movement! As much as I love the old guy I am seriously considering the spare room. I think Robert Parker (the author) and his wife had it right - they lived on separate floors! They both had their own kitchens, bathrooms, living rooms and bedrooms. And they "visited" each other when one of them was in the mood for love. And they really truly loved each other. What ever works for you lady is the best thing to do. And damn to the people who judge;-)

I appreciate your comment. : )

Yeah. We could have called it quits years ago, but there are things worth working for. Its not supposed to work for everyone, I get that. But, well… there it is. : )

Thats what Im working on, Nan. Real love and truth. Its what this world actually needs.

Awesome. : )

I think a lot of women (and men) imagine that little house in a wheat field. You are not alone. : ) Your wheat field might be my little house overlooking the Puget Sound. For sure.

My husband spends part of the week in another town, taking care of his elderly parents. Those are the nights I get the best one hogging the covers, no one telling me to turn down my white noise, no one coming to bed at 2 am and turning on the lights, etc.
I feel your pain!

I wont lie. When my daughter goes to college, Im probably going to hit the hat there more than a few times in her absence.

Thanks. Ill take that today. For sure.

Sometimes I think as fun as sleeping with other people can be, especially in those early years, its not the most enjoyable thing after a while. : )

I covet your guest room.

Kim, Ive read SO much about couples who choose to not sleep together, even couples who design homes with two master bedrooms. Granted, we will never be that couple, ahem, financially, but its so much more common that people realize.

Amy, you bring up another very interesting wrinkle: traveling and vacations. When we went to Europe last summer, I was so, so stressed about how sleeping would go. I brought my sound machine (with an overseas adaptor) and it literally melted after one minute of running. No sleep machine for me. Then we stayed in this charming but truly strange little place with tiny, hot rooms and lets just say I used the few Xanax tabs I had with me to calm down for sleep. Yep. Traveling. When we go to our family cabin and its a full house, I get very anxious indeed.

Yep. I hear you.

I have a friend who had a separate room and told me it was the best advice her mentor had ever given to her.

I've started getting that crazy anxiety / bordering on panic attacks right before sleep too! My body usually jerks awake at least twice before falling asleep and sometimes it wakes me up enough that I'm wide awake and just can't relax and get into the groove to try and sleep. What's helping are those "Mack" brand ear plugs. I push 'em in tight and they really help block out all sound (including husband, dogs, creaks in the house, etc) and all I can hear is my breathing. Then I have to focus on the breathing only - in and out, in and out - and it somehow seems to help me me calm. It works most nights... So weird because I never used to have issues falling asleep but I totally get your panic attack reference. The other option is to stay awake until 2am drinking gin and tonic and that usually does the trick too ;)

Thank you so much for your honesty and sharing this with us. I am in a long-term relationship/live with a man that I love very much but cannot sleep with (and he feels the same). We decided when we moved in together that we needed separate bedrooms. But I am like you: I still feel like this isn't what couples do. I still feel like I need to explain to anyone who hears us say "my bedroom/his bedroom". This despite the fact that he is the best man ever and I am completely and blissfully happy with him. The negative voices in my head are still there, and that's a shame. By the way, I have not been able to sleep through the night since forever. I remember this even as a teen. I finally started taking an OTC dose of diphenhydramine every night before bed and it's changed my life. Being able to get a full night's sleep makes you feel like a different woman...

You are certainly not alone. I just turned 50 and hubby and I have been married for almost 26 years. We currently sleep in one Queen size bed together in out not large master bedroom. I also can't remember the last time I sleep through the night and I am an incredibly light sleeper too. I frequently go to the guest room to sleep when I wake up in the middle of the night and his snoring keeps me from going back to sleep. I found myself panicking last week because we were about to have a house guest for 2 weeks and I wouldn't have my sleep sanctuary to retreat to!!! So, yes I've been thinking about separate rooms -- not just for the sleeping but so I can have my own space to decorate and live in the way I like to. The idea of two beds and a white noise machine is interesting though as separate rooms seems a bit sad to me -- I'd miss the cuddling we do. Thanks for being so real!

The timing of your post is funny/ironic. I woke up this morning from the sound of my husband getting ready for work, and was wondering why he has to be so noisy. I really value my sleep, and my best sleep is in the morning, so I was so irritated that he woke me up. Really, does he HAVE to go to work? lol. I laid in bed wondering about my natural sleep cycles, and if I lived alone, with no one to wake me up, what time would I naturally wake up. I know that is so selfish, but I was thinking about it any way. I was thinking what retired people do about sleep when the kids leave and you don't have to get up for a job.
Thanks for your honesty, I think there is value to "airing" those little things that shame us, because it helps us to let it go. And you'll find out, like you have today, that there is really nothing to be ashamed about!
You rock Cathy!

It so funny to read this...last night my husband was downstairs watching the BB games late and did not come up to bed. I was thinking that it was such a treat to have the bed, ALL TO MYSELF. I was a little disappointed when he arrived! No judgement - it's real life!
: )

First of all, you write so well. Very fluid and funny and enjoyable to read. Ok about sleep. I'm almost 43 now, and I've had trouble sleeping for the last few years, to the point of having a lot of anxiety over it. One thing I do now (because I've tried everything you mentioned) is that once a week or every two weeks, I pick a night when I know I'll have a chance to sleep in and I go to bed early with an Extra Strength Nytol (over the counter). I'll go to bed around 10:30pm (which is really early for me) and I'll sleep until 8:30am or later if I can. That's 10 hours! I still might have to pee in the night but I find the Nytol keeps me groggy and I can go right back to sleep. Now I'm a lot less stressed about not getting enough sleep during the week and I think taking away that anxiety has helped me a lot. And the Nytol is more effective than a prescription sleeping pill that I've tried. Good luck! And PS I blame my husband for too many things. In therapy too. You're not alone.

Oh, sweet old friend...I know your pain! I'm going to sound like a freaking infomercial but here goes: We bought a sleep number bed. Mike is a 70. I am a 15! Years of sleeping on a hard mattress and waking up unrested with back pain, and I find out I sleep best in a hole that feels like a hammock. When the kids needed new mattresses, we bought sleep number. We have one in our guest room, and most of our guest our now sleep number converts. Yes, they are pricey. Worth every penny. Infomercial #2: I heard Don Imus on the radio raving about the pillow. I am not usually one to buy the "as seen on TV/heard on radio" kind of gal, but I bought it. And it changed my life. No joke. Everyone in the family has one now. We have gifted these pillows to the grandparents, and anyone else we want to bless. I have become one of those people who travels with their pillow. Here's the thing: You spend one third of your life in bed. This is not a place to skimp. And I firmly believe we all get along much better when we are well rested. We now return to your regular programming ;)

Sing it, sista...we're all struggling with something...your honesty helps us all feel a little bit better about our own "issues."
Love you, CZ.

Love this post. Here's a question I've been pondering since the arrival of my children:

Why do we spend so much time and energy and effort teaching kids to sleep alone...just to then expect when you find a partner you'll spend the rest of your life sleeping with them? If we've been trained since (near) birth to sleep by ourselves, then obviously tossing another human, one with their own quirks and rituals and styles, into our personal space is obviously not going to be all rainbows and kittens and unicorns all the time.

Good for you (and the rest of your lovely commenters) for admitting what is probably more common than anyone thinks. Sleep is an essential part of living a healthy life. Do whatcha gotta do. (And yep, I've been known to sleep on the couch/in the guest bed when my husbands snoring kicks up.)

Your post could not have come at a better time. I am feeling immense guilt for my husband not being able to sleep well at night. I'm 7 months pregnant with twins and the square footage I take up in the bed with pillows combined with my tossing and turning keeps us both up at night. Normally he is a very heavy, quick-to-fall-asleep sleeper, but not these days. We have a hide-a-bed and the past two nights he's slept there. I want to be close to him but there's just now way we can both get the sleep we need in the space we have.

I feel like I now have permission to sleep in a separate bed. Thank you for that, and thank you for always keeping it real. I always appreciate that about you - that you are willing to share the realness of life with us out here on the internet. You don't have to, but you do anyway, and I'm not sure you know how many people you probably help by being your true self.

Have a great day, missy!

What is Diphenhydramine? Might have to look into that.

the adrenaline rush of being angry Yes. Oh my God, yes. I still experience that to this day. Although its less anger and more anxiety. Or maybe equal parts.

No judging here. The main reason I love you and your blog (or anything you do) is because you keep it real. Cathy Zielske does not sugar coat! Don't worry about those who judge. They're just afraid to be honest like you. You rock! Hope you have a great day and a good night's sleep:)

OH, it is SUCH a treat. God. I KNOW this feeling so well.

I always figured if Dan and I didnt work out (I dont say that to be flippant) but I would never share a room with anyone ever again.

Its good to feel less alone.

Your attitude of no big deal is SO refreshing. Im just gonna say that. Because we have experienced that it is a big deal. Lots of layers underneath that one...

I notice a lot of people chimed in with the problem of waking up around 2am. I'm curious if you've read any of the research about how this is actually a natural human sleep pattern! Sleeping through the night is a new fashion, since the invention of electric light (?perhaps), and there are many references in Medieval writing to being awake in the middle of the night and going to visit with people/having sex/doing some work and then going back for the second sleep. Any time so many people say they have a "problem" and it's the same problem, I start wondering if maybe it's not a problem at all... This NPR article has a little info but also google "second sleep" Maybe you would sleep better if you stopped trying to sleep through the night...?

Cindy, thanks for your kind words about my writing, and for sharing your story. Also, for your last line. Its funny what you learn in therapy. The whole blaming him for everything in my life? That one? Huge. Working to change that.

Cathy~I feel at times, that we are twins that have never met! Your honesty about your sleeping habits and working on your marriage are REAL things everyone experiences…those who say they don't are lying to themselves. Keep posting these real life saga's…love to read them!

Hey friend, now the sleep bed… I dont know if that will help Dan not snore, but… I will totally check out the pillow like now. The other part of the sleep bed? It would be us in the same bed and right now, Im good having my own space! LOL!


Colleen, your situation sounds like just that: situational. You have to do what is needed for both of you. You just wait. Once that baby comes and your body returns to a more manageable size, itll probably come around. : ) Of course, youll have a baby, but thats the fun part! right? ; )

Oh, I meant to say that when we are snowbirds down south, we share a king size bed and it's divine…back home for seven months, we share a double bed -->that's back to REAL life! Yawn.

Thank you, Desiree. My goal is to write more personal stuff. Somehow, it just makes for better writing than always writing about Project Life. No disrespect to PL. Its just how it is.

Thank you and Amen sister!! My hubby and I have our own rooms. It started with his back pain, light sleeping and tossing and turning that he would move to the couch in the middle of the night so as not to disturb me, to my snoring and hot flashes, to him just sleeping on the sofabed, then we finally broke down and bought a second bed and reaaranged a second bedroom used as a music studio, into "his" room. Why is it we feel we need to explain anything. After 28 years together, it works for us to have our own spaces, to read or just be alone with our thoughts. We spend time together everyday, walking each evening, sharing our days , hopes, thoughts, etc. I too say its our "spare room," but in reality when we travel we get two queens. We are still very affectionate, but sleeping is sleeping and done best for us, anyway, in our own spaces. Thank you for the courage to hit the publish button.

Thanks for sharing this Cathy. I'm where you were several years ago -- on the verge of twin beds and a therapist. Its nice to know that someone else has gone through this and that they emerged whole at the other side. If you ever wonder if you should share, think of me. You've helped and inspired in many areas of my life!


I read this book about sleep and the researchers did some experiments with married couples and determined that nearly EVERYone sleeps better in separate beds. That's really no shock, right? But, as you point out, other things suffer like the relationship. It sounds like you've done a good job of finding a solution that works for you. It's not easy, especially when it confronts these large conceptions and expectations about how things should be or what a "good" marriage is.

From an ear plug wearing, sleep deprived, forty something year old woman...I TOTALLY understand! Thanks for being brave enough to share, it makes me feel a little less alone in that particular struggle.

Yes, Michelle (and Cathy) it was Robert and Joan Parker. My husband knew them. They adored each other and found a way to make it work for them. It really is a continuum - we all fall somewhere along it!
Thanks for sharing Cathy!
May you and Dan always find solutions and always feel connected and loved!
- Lee

I've never felt compelled to respond to a post until now. For several years I walked(okay, stomped) to the basement bedroom in the middle of the night, hoping to get at least 2-3 hours of sleep before the babies woke and I had to get ready for work the next day. So much anger, so much frustration, mostly directed at my hubby, who, of course, couldn't help snoring. Or rolling. Or breathing. Or whatever happened to keep me awake that night. Finally I just said, "the hell with it", and we bought a mattress for our 4th (unused) bedroom. Which is now my room. Best decision ever. When we had friends live with us last summer while they found a house, I was anxious about them discovering our "secret" sleeping arrangements. Guess what? They slept the same way! Once I got over being embarrassed (?!) and told a few friends, most of them voiced jealousy, not judgement.

Thank you so much for this post, from a now-much-happier-married, much-more-rested middle-aged reader.

Susan, the whole anticipating the next big noise… I tell you, when I do wake up (which is several times) I also deal with that anxiety. Thats when I go downstairs and hit the couch. I bought a super cozy twin sized down comforter that we keep in the family room. Great for watching movies, and… for mama to get some quieter sleep. Also, thanks for reading all these years. I promise, better writing is coming.

Cathy, Thank you so much. When we go through things, we sometimes think we are the only one. Thank you for letting me know I am not alone. :) I am a night time person and not a morning person. Sure, I can do mornings once in a while, but too many of them and you will learn it is not good. I am starting to realize that part of my night time schedule that it is like a little kid thinking she/he will miss something, loose precious minutes, etc. I do love a good nights sleep, do not get me wrong but it usually happens from around 2/3 a.m. to about 10/11 a.m. Now my hubby who snores has a different sleep schedule (9 p.m. to 4 a.m.) You can hear him through the wall into the living room and the kids (when they lived at home) would ask, "you can fall asleep with that?" I can once I get comfortable. It is just telling the body or brain that it is okay to sleep is the hard part. It became harder a couple years ago when I got hit with the "C" and I got through that great. But when you do get hit with that crap I think it changes you sub-consciously IF you don't realize it. Like now I do not want to sleep for different reasons. I am starting to figure out some of those reasons. Sorry, got off track a little... THANK YOU for being so open and letting some of us know we are NOT alone! Now if anyone post BS to you, flush it, this is your blog. Luv ya!

Diphenhydramine is also known under the brand name Benadryl. It's an antihistamine used to treat allergies. Check for contraindications and drug interactions - including alcohol. And be cautious if you have sleep apnea.
All that said, it does have a sedative effect and is sometimes prescribed for insomnia.

its a fact that sleep depravation is a form of torture. we NEED to sleep. the fantasy of falling asleep with limbs intertwined is a joke. sure i could do it as a youngster. but now? never. it may look nice but it feels horrible and makes people feel inadequate and hurt and frutrated when they try to achieve it.
i guess for people who use nighttime as their only was to express physical contact, it can be significant to be avoiding each other. but a couple that is close mentally and spiritually will find a way to be physically close during non sleeping hours.

your writing is really evolving into something special. please continue sharing in your unique genuine voice. it is an honor and pleasure to be part of your blog community.

If I had read this post 30 years ago (I am 61), I would totally have judged you! Sleeping together with your partner went hand in hand with marital bliss. And I agree with so many of your readers, that separate sleeping quarters are far more common than most think. I am single now, and have struggled with insomnia/sleep issues and feel your pain. Thank you for sharing your stories with humility and humour. You made my day.

Oh, I love that we can all confess here! My husband started sleeping downstairs 15 years ago (his choice). He goes to bed really early (I mean like 7 pm) and gets up in the middle of the night, can't sleep, so he either watches tv or goes to work. I cried for days, weeks when he started doing this. And I was ashamed for years- trying to hide it from my kids and friends.
So now he's off work after knee replacement surgery. Sleeping with me again- which is really nice but a little hard to get used to. When he wakes up after 3 or 4 hours of sleep, he can't just lay there so he heads downstairs to watch tv. I imagine that when he goes to work next week, he'll probably go back to his old habit of sleeping downstairs but after being married (mostly happily) for 43 years, I think it's going to be okay. And it's so nice to hear that others have similar issues. Thanks, Cathy.

Well you just summarized this beautifully. I know it was hard for Dan, the idea of us not being in the same bed and he admitted clinging to the fantasy of two people entwined, the closeness of that. But I am learning that real connection has very little to do with physicality. I appreciate your comment.

Vickie, I think there is that idea of having shame if youre not doing it right—were SUPPOSED to sleep together. But that is an idea and ideas are not part of reality. Ive spent a lifetime living based on my ideas. Im changing that now.

Once again...I could have written this myself. Wish your therapist made house calls. I think we're at that point. :)

Thanks Kelly - there is nothing better than to know I'm not alone.

Let me chime in and say that this post is very well-timed, thank you for your honesty and vulnerability, and thank you to all the commenters who have shared their experiences. DH and I have been married 16 years, living together for 18. Like another of the commenters, I recently have had all my kids finally sleeping through the night, but found myself struggling with signs of sleep deprivation, to the extent that I saw my Dr about it. He sent me for a sleep apnea test, which was basically torture for someone as sensitive and who sleeps as lightly as myself, and determined that I DON'T have sleep apnea, but it's DH who is keeping me awake. He has allergies and snores off and on. I can totally relate to everything you wrote, and others wrote about having anxiety either before sleep or when waking up in the middle of the night, like if one of my kids DOES wake up (I have a 3YO who still does occasionally wake up) I find it so hard to fall back asleep. DH is always asleep in SECONDS when the light turns off, which is so frustrating because I can hear him either snoring or just breathing REALLY heavily. The other thing that often happens to me is that I am JUST about to fall asleep and something wakes me up (probably DH) and I startle awake, only to lie in bed for another hour... earplugs have helped, and sometimes we do use the guest room in the basement for DH when he is on call or his allergies are particularly bad. It's good to know A) that I'm not alone and B) that there are solutions I hadn't thought of. We don't have room in our bedroom for another bed other than our Queen-sized one, but maybe we can come up with something else?

Well said! :)

We've had issue like this off and on and have often said. "if we had another room.." Now that we are a bit older and he's been diagnosed with sleep apnea and has the machine, it's getting worse for me, better for him. Mostly. He still has moments where he is wide awake at four, and gets up, which wakes me up. And there you have it.

We have two beds, but we call our room the 'rumpus room' 😜

Totally agree:)

Crying as I type. This post - the last lines specifically - hit me square between the eyes (and heart). Thank you for being honest and real with your readers. It is so very appreciated.

You betcha :)

Another couple who don't share beds here. I sleep with my 8 year old daughter. It works best for our family. Hubby doesn't like my snoring. I don't like his extremely early schedule. She likes cuddling with Mom. It's good, except when she burrows her feet under me for warmth. Life.

I've only been to your blog a handful of times. Now I'll be a regular reader. I think I'm going to check out a class from you too. Keeping it real is awesome!

"But I share my tale of two beds because sometimes you have to try all sorts of things to make something work"

Again your words hit my heart,just when I need them :)
Thanks again ~still in working on things every day

Husband one and I couldnt share a blanket and soon found our own beds in our own rooms worked better. Actually. Our own houses works much better. Ha husband number two... Shares a blanket, bed, room
And home woderfully well. I leven find his snoring comforting and stayed awake until 1am so i could hear him sleep on facetime audio while he was deployed. Hope things are going better and you guys are happy.

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