My Partner and I Sleep in Separate Beds and It Saved Our Sex Life


This article is part of SELF’s Keep It Hot package, a collection of content that celebrates love and lust. Throughout February, we’ll be dishing out advice and inspiration for feeling hot, getting horny, and nurturing romantic relationships.

The first time I told a table of women that my partner and I sleep in separate twin beds, someone immediately asked the question everyone has about our situation, whether or not they say it out loud: “But how do you have sex?” 

The inquiry came amid a muted mix of oh’s and a couple of “that actually sounds amazing” comments that still seemed to telegraph a silent My SO and I will never, ever do this. But I’m happy to report that my partner and I get busy more often now than we did during the years (years!!!) that we wasted trying to be a one-bed duo. It’s time to stand in my truth—or rather, lie down in it with my personal duvet bunched around my shoulders, unencumbered by the resentment that comes with having a kick-y leg slung over me. Allow me to explain why that’s a turn-on.

My partner and I are incompatible in bed. (Sleep. I mean sleep.)

My partner of 11 years and I get along wonderfully in our waking hours. But we’re wildly incompatible when it comes to that thing we all spend about 30% of our lives doing. (I’m talking about sleeping, not sex—though if you are devoting a third of your hours to the pursuit of orgasm, I’d like to meet you and give you a Most Fun Person medal.) I’m cursed with lifelong insomnia that ebbs and flows. I’m such a light sleeper that, even with my trusty sleep mask and earplugs, the sound of a kitten’s cough could rouse me with a start. As for my partner…have you ever seen those videos of dreaming dogs that sputter and shake their legs in the air like they’re running? That’s what his periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) (a condition common in people with restless leg syndrome) looks like, and it kicks in—literally—every 90 seconds. 

Exactly one and a half minutes after being shaken violently awake, right as I’d get sucked back into delicious drowsiness—BOOM. His double kicks would rock the mattress from side to side. And, while he stayed asleep, I was ten-cups-of-coffee-level alert again. Sometimes his arms would get into the act during a vivid dream too, like the night I was awakened by a flurry of light karate chops to my side. “There was a monster,” he explained, facing my barely visible glare in the dark. “I was defending you!” Funny, because I felt attacked.

Cultural pressure to sleep side-by-side made us feel more distant from each other than ever.

We loved sharing a bed at one point in our relationship: when we finally moved in together after 15 months of long-distance dating. Maybe it was because our brains were awash in oxytocin after living apart for so long, but when we weren’t having reunion sex, we cozied up and fell into uninterrupted slumber together—on a twin air mattress on the floor of a studio apartment, no less. Sure, from the outset of our relationship, the overwhelming majority of nights found me stumbling from the air mattress to the futon at 4 a.m. on account of bedquakes. But, we reasoned, we just needed to get one of those mattresses that could take a beating without upsetting a giant glass of Merlot, and all would be well. Besides, all happy couples sleep in the same bed, right?


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