Sleep and Marriage: Are You Compatible?

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Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

Among the many things that couples complain about when they come for marriage counseling is their sleep behavior. For example, George complains that he must get up early for work the next morning but his wife stays up late watching television in the bedroom until the late hours of the night and he keeps waking up. As a result, they get up at different times and he is forced to have breakfast alone. A variation on this complaint is that she keeps the bedroom light on so she can read and that disturbs his sleep.


Snoring is a big issue for many couples. He or she cannot stay asleep because the snoring become so loud that it’s impossible to sleep. Very often, the partner afflicted with snoring is banished to the living room couch for which there is endless resentment. It’s important state that chronic snoring can be the result of a breathing condition called Sleep Apnea. It is important to consult a physician if snoring remains a chronic condition since, if it is sleep apnea causing the problem, it can have serious health consequences. A device called CPAP is used to relieve the problem so the person can sleep quietly and feel refreshed the next day. Of course, this helps the spouse as well.

Then, too, there are disagreements on the bedroom environment. For example, one partner may prefer the bedroom temperature to be cold while the other wants it warm. These are not just academic disagreements because the temperature can interfere with sleep. In a similar vein, some prefer the window open while others want it shut. Some may want a heavy blanket to sleep under while others prefer a light blanket or none at all. Finally, there can be endless disagreement over mattress firmness with some wanting a mushy type of mattress while the other wants it to be firm.

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These are just a few of the many problems that afflict couples during the night. Of course, it leads to marital conflict, hurt feelings and resentment on both sides. These high emotions interfere with any possibility of love making. While young, powerful passions prevented anything from getting in the way of what happens sexually. Now, after several years of marriage, the novelty has worn off for many couples causing sleep disturbances to be all encompassing.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, three out of every four adults awake during the night or they snore. A survey of women aged 18 to 64 found that half of them reported sleeping poorly several nights per week. In addition, poor sleepers report that it interferes with their performance the next day.

There are strategies that people can use to overcome some of these problems. For example, watch television in the living room rather than the bedroom where it can cause a disturbance. In reverse, the one trying to sleep can move to the living room or to another bedroom. The same goes for reading in bed although using a Kindle makes it easy to read in bed and without disturbing your partner.

It is important for everyone to practice good sleep habits. For example, refrain from exercise during the evening as this can “rev” the body up making sleep more difficult. Drinking alcohol may make it easy to fall asleep but not stay asleep. It’s best to avoid drinking to much near to bed time. The same goes for dinner. Large dinners before bed can cause sleep disturbances. There should be several hours between eating and turning into bed.

What are your experiences with sleep problems?

Your comments are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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