We’re in a Throuple With Sleep

And like all good polyamorous relationships, we each have a different relationship with her.

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ME: (F47) I need at least 8 hours of sleep, preferably 9–10. I go to bed around 11–12 pm and wake up around 9 am. I am blessed to have the kind of job that allows me to sleep until my body wakes me up and I take full advantage of that. If my partner even moves in bed, I wake up and if they go to the bathroom, I move around, rearrange the bed and curl back up with them when they return. I take 100mg of Trazadone nightly to help me sleep better. When I take it, I don’t wake up as easily and fall asleep very quickly.

DJDM: (M39) Struggles to feel tired and never truly feels ready to go to sleep. He suffers frequent bouts of insomnia. He smokes weed to help him feel tired enough to fall asleep. His bedtime is usually around 2 am and he sets an alarm most days no later than 6:30 am. Once he goes to sleep he sleeps deeply and almost never moves from the position he falls asleep in.

In our culture, we are proud when we need only a little sleep. We brag, “I can get by on 5 hours of sleep!” “I never take naps.” People who need more sleep are often made to feel ashamed. If you need a lot of sleep, you are perceived as lazy or unmotivated. Some of these thoughts are deeply ingrained in the fabric of our thoughts and concepts about life. Similarly, we have strong ideas around sleep as a couple. Generally, it is thought that going to sleep at the same time is essential to a healthy relationship.

…, keeping separate bedtimes leads to greater disconnection and the feeling that each person is living a separate life. For some, separate bedtimes can’t be avoided, but happy couples make sure to go to bed together as much as possible. “I recommend that couples try to go to bed together at least three times a week,” says Lutter. “and to not stagger upstairs after sleeping on the sofa, but to actually go to bed together.” Connections can’t me made if a couple is on different schedules.- https://www.fatherly.com/love-money/relationships/night-time-routines-happy-marriage-relationship/

Perhaps one of the most significant aspects of being a couple is that warm, intimate time you spend together before falling asleep… https://www.sleepbubble.com/couples-go-to-bed-at-same-time/

But what if you just can’t go to bed at the same time? What if your circadian rhythms are different? What if you just need more (or less) sleep than your partner? Is it selfish to prioritize your sleep above sleeping together the whole night?

DJDM and I talk about sleep all the time, sometimes a few times a day. This is why we joke that sleep is a ‘third person” in our relationship. It is something we connect about regularly. We check-in to learn how much sleep we each had, when did we fall asleep, do we feel ok now? We talk about the differences in our sleep patterns and reassure one another that each “sleep type” is valid and neither one of us has any reason to feel bad for having a different sleep pattern than the other.

But why do we even feel the need to have those conversations? The way we are taught “to be” as couples sometimes makes us feel awkward that we don’t have the same sleep rhythms. I know in my head that when DJDM stays on the couch (and falls asleep there) when I go to bed long before he is ready, that it doesn’t diminish our relationship or his love for me. But if I wake up and he’s still out there, I often feel like I “should” go wake him up and get him to come to bed with me. But why?

Data collected from the experiment found that subjects not only were less likely to wake up during the night but also spent almost thirty additional minutes in the deeper stages of sleep on nights when they had a room to themselves. https://www.salon.com/2012/08/14/separate_beds_are_liberating/

I love sleeping alone. Don’t get me wrong, I also LOVE sleeping with his arms and legs wrapped around me and his breath in my ear… It’s just that I sleep better without a wiggling boyfriend tossing and turning next to me because he’s not ready to sleep. He knows this, which is why he stays on the couch and doesn’t come to bed to “try” to sleep- keeping me awake. He loves me and respects my sleep style enough to know he’s actually being a better partner when he stays on the couch after I go to bed. Likewise, when I let him STAY on the couch when he’s finally fallen asleep, he gets a longer uninterrupted sleep and that’s better for him.

Not only is sleeping at separate times good for our own sleep patterns and health, I feel “free.” I can sleep as I need to, when I need to, without censure or problems. It enhances my sense of independence, the autonomy I need to be a happy healthy partner. I know if I go to sleep early, he still loves me. He knows, if he sleeps on the couch, I still love him. We don’t subscribe to the theory that couples are happier when they go to sleep at the same time.

We all compare current situations with past ones, and this is no exception. When I was married, it was to a man who believed if we didn’t sleep at the same time, for the same length of time, there was something wrong. But, he insisted on a TV in the bedroom and wanted to watch it before bed. He immediately fell asleep, while I was awake for another hour or more, distracted by the TV and unable to sleep. He expected me to wake up in the morning with him, to talk and connect before our days started, even though I needed more sleep than him, but was getting a lot less.

I remember one night, I couldn’t sleep, (people who need a lot of sleep or sleep lightly, often also have more insomnia) so I went out to the couch to watch TV. He came out after about an hour, and instead of asking me if I was ok or checking on why I was out there, he was angry that I dared abandon him to the bed all by himself. As if a 50-year-old man couldn’t sleep alone for a few hours?

With this history, is it a wonder I feel so much freer and more at peace with a relationship that allows me to prioritize my health and my needs over an arbitrary “custom” of sleeping at the same time together?

One of the things I read when I was looking for information about couples going to bed at the same time for this post, was that many “studies” say the quiet time before bed, when couples talk about their day and connect, is what keeps couples together. Really, that’s all there is keeping couples together? I guess I don’t worry about that, because those “quiet moments” are not lacking in our lives. Though, I suppose if you have kids, your attention is more divided and you don’t have as much time for each other during the day. So this could be more true for some people than others.

But DJDM and I don’t have children and we spend a LOT of time together. (We both work from home and he is studying English full-time.) We talk about our relationship, sometimes ad nauseam. Everyone in our circle knows how much we love each other and how wild we are for each other. WE know how much we love one another. We don’t have to rely on 10 minutes when we’re exhausted and falling asleep to connect and understand our love.

It’s important for people to remember that sleeping together doesn’t always save a marriage any more than sleeping apart ruins a marriage,” Scoville said. “It’s sleep, and sleep is really important to everyone. But even more important than that is loving each other enough to try something that makes life a bit easier for your partner.”- https://www.today.com/health/why-couples-sleep-separate-beds-how-ask-your-spouse-t126112

I know, I know, you are wondering about sex. How do we have sex if we aren’t going to bed at the same time? I’m not gonna lie, it can be tricky. We love sex. It is an essential strong part of our relationship, so believe me, we still have a lot of sex. We like morning sex and because our schedules are relatively flexible, it is a great option for us. But there are definitely times when he comes to bed, two hours after I went to sleep and wakes me up for sex. I decided the first time it happened, I would not say no in these situations if I could at all help it.

I love having sex with him so much, and it connects us in ways going to sleep at the same never could. I need to have him close to me in that way, so I wake up if he wants and we have wild monkey sex. That amazing orgasm helps me to fall back asleep again, this time in his arms. He doesn’t do it often, he respects my sleep too much, but sometimes we have needs even sleep can’t trump.

Update: Recently, despite my resolve to not say no, when he has come to me after I have fallen asleep, I have been rejecting him, without even knowing it! He told me after about three times of me literally pushing him away from me. (I had zero recollection of this happening.) My sleep has gotten so deep and relaxing, knowing he was not there with me to disturb it, that when he tries to wake me up, I can’t pull myself to the surface. But like all things relationship- we talked about it- and now if he is “in the mood” he comes to bed at the same time as me, or very shortly after, before I have fallen into a deep sleep.

The fact that we love and respect each other enough to respect our different sleep styles and give each of us the freedom to prioritize what we need in our relationship, makes me feel strong, secure and loved more than I ever have been before. (And our sex life still rocks!)

Do you go to sleep at the same time? Or do you keep different sleep schedules? How does that work for you and your partner(s)?

Written by

World traveler, memoir writer, lover of all things relationship- especially non-traditional! www.elbyrnewriter.com Follow me on Twitter: @ELByrne1

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