Let’s get one thing straight: you love your partner. You don’t mean to throw an arm across their throat at 2 a.m. You don’t deliberately snore in their left ear. And you definitely don’t mean to trip on your iPhone charger when you’re heading to bed a little later than them. It just … happens.
Can you stop disrupting their sleep and take some major strain off of the relationship? There’s a good chance. Start by figuring out exactly which problems are plaguing your shared slumber.
Problem #1: You’re tossing, flailing and basically perfecting your UFC moves in your sleep
Almost half of us complain that the tossing and turning of our spouse or partner is a major problem keeping us from sleeping. And it’s no wonder: when researchers monitored couples’ sleep patterns for a recent study, they found that whenever one sleeping partner moved, the other person in bed had a 50 percent chance of being disturbed.
For a quick fix, psychologist Ramani Durvasula recommends pushing together two separate mattresses. This allows you the intimacy of a shared sleeping space, but the tossing and turning done on one mattress doesn’t affect the other mattress.
In the long term, you’ll want to get to the root of your nighttime acrobatics.
Possible causes and solutions
Restless leg syndrome
Your health care practitioner may prescribe supplements and lifestyle changes like increased exercise and heating pads, and may also test you for iron deficiencies.
Muscle aches and pains
Soak in a hot bath before bed. Your partner can also massage painful pressure points with essential oils.
Journaling your anxieties can release tension. Relaxation therapies like deep breathing may also help. L-theanine supplements may help reduce physical responses to stress, and 5-HTP supplements may increase serotonin production.
Supplements for better sleep
“Magnesium is the main sleep aid I recommend,” says Dr. Carolyn Dean. She notes that it prevents muscle tension that can interfere with sleep and is also important for production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Dean recommends magnesium citrate powder, available at most health food stores.
These other supplements may help, too.
- Melatonin, a favorite with jet-lagged travelers, may reduce how long it takes you to fall asleep.
- Hops and valerian “have soothing and mild sedative effects on the nervous system,” says Dean.
- Camomile, popular as a tea, may calm your nerves.
Problem #2: Your nose becomes Kenny G in the night
Approximately 45 percent of us snore occasionally, while a quarter of us make it a regular habit. Investigate the underlying causes before asking your partner to invest in earplugs.
Possible causes and solutions
Lying on your back creates the highest risk of snoring. Sleep on your side for snoreless ZZZs.
Obstructed nasal airways
Allergies, colds and sinus illnesses make you more likely to snore. Vitamin C, ginger and inhaling steam from a humidifier may help.
An evening drink may soothe the nerves, but alcohol can make snoring worse.
This sleep disorder—a common cause of snoring—makes you stop breathing for 10 to 30 seconds at a time. Fortunately, lifestyle changes can make a big impact. If you’re overweight, losing just 10 percent of your weight can dramatically reduce sleep apnea symptoms. Engaging in regular exercise and avoiding alcohol and smoking can also help, but talk to your doctor before attempting to treat this serious disorder.
Problem #3: The sound of a feather landing on a llama somewhere in the Andes is enough to wake up your partner
Okay, so your paramour is a super light sleeper. Despite your best efforts, they’re still waking up on the regular. Here are a few tips for them.
- Use earplugs or noise-canceling headphones.
- Get an air conditioner or bedroom fan that drowns out sound, or try a gadget or app that creates white noise.
- Use carpeting or rugs to help soak up vibrations and muffle sounds like snoring. Bonus: you’ll nail that boho-chic look.
- Install blackout window treatments, which can prevent light from getting in and also insulate the room from outdoor noises.
- Keep your bed away from windows, bathroom-sharing walls or other sources of noise.
Problem #4: You like to stay up late; they want to hit that 6 a.m. spin class
Mismatched schedules and different before-bed habits play a huge role in how well each individual in a relationship sleeps. It all comes down to communication. “Sometimes people think and act as though they have no choice,” says psychotherapist Pandora MacLean-Hoover. “I encourage clients to give another look at whether [an evening] pattern is fixed or whether there may be room for change.”
Plan around each other’s schedule
Plan ahead. If one person needs to enter the bedroom late at night or get up early in the morning, do as much as possible ahead of time (like setting out work clothes the night before) so you aren’t rummaging around the bedroom and turning lights on and off.
Align your bedtime habits
If one of you likes to watch TV before bed or read a book in bed, talk about it to determine whether that disrupts the other person’s sleep. “Communicate and come to a compromise about when it has to be ‘lights out,’” says Durvasula. “Otherwise, the reading or watching may need to take place in another room so the sleeper can go to sleep.”
Sharing the bed with your fur babies
More than half of all dog owners and cat owners sleep with their animal companion. The problem? Pets can contribute to insomnia and be just as disturbing to your sleep as a human. If you can’t bear sleeping apart, try these tips.
Keep pets clean and groomed. Excess fur and other allergens may cause you or your human partner to snore.
Exercise your pet. A tuckered-out animal will be less likely to disturb your sleep.
Have a litter box nearby or take your dog outside to relieve itself before bed so you’re not constantly woken by a pet that needs to be let out.
Make pets sleep above the covers. This minimizes allergen exposure and helps keep you cool, promoting better sleep. It also gives you a buffer if your pet decides at midnight that your leg is its new toy.