Negotiating sleep with your partner


The title of this post should have been “I don’t negotiate with terrorists.” As that is precisely the struggle – how to calibrate your sleeping preferences with your partner, when most people are dead-set on when they go to sleep, how dark their room is and what temperature they sleep in. The choice of topic was prompted by a friend, who was telling me that her recent sleep struggles came from having to negotiate with her partner bedroom etiquette like: who takes up how much surface area of the bed, lighting preferences, snoring tendencies etc. in order for both of them to get their much needed rest.


Mind you, they are quite a new couple, yet they smartly chose to talk these details through at the start in order to be on the same wavelength, in the same bed and remain satisfied in the same relationship. There are few things that can make a romance go sour than several nights of feeling “robbed” of precious shut-eye.


Sure, we can talk about fancy mattresses that accommodate to each of the sleeper’s preferences, about remedies for snoring (I know very few, actually) and “What your sleep cuddling style says about your personality!” (No. Just no.). But this topic has a much bigger issue at hand: how easily do you raise this topic with your partner?


Our sleep habits are, sometimes, a touchy subject. How do you tell someone that their snoring makes you want to rip out your ears?

That their hogging of the covers leaves you frustrated and resentful every night?

That you don’t want to be cuddled and prefer ample space between each other in the night?


Do you see how this could, in certain cases, trigger feelings of abandonment, defensiveness or inadequacy?


I am by no means telling you to ignore this issue all together because it could cause pain (avoidance is not my jam). But rather, what a wonderful opportunity to work on your communication skills (and get better sleep in the process). Your sleeping arrangement issues with your partner? A gift from the freakin’ Universe so that you learn to talk to each other.


Depending on your personality and that of your partner, you might want to try out using humour (if they hog the covers, sending them a picture of yourself in bed, uncovered and shivering with photoshopped ice cubes), Non-Violent Communication (I write it in capitals not only because it is important – which it is – but because it is a concrete method you can study, check it out.) or bringing in a therapist if openly talking about it doesn’t result in kindness.


Try something new in the way that you communicate. Wait a bit longer before responding. Actively stay with them and their experience a bit longer before moving on to your perspective. Throw in a knock-knock joke if it all gets too serious.

We can all agree that trying out the same thing over and over and expecting different results just. Doesn’t. Work.


And maybe, just maybe…you might end up deciding to sleep in separate beds. Separate rooms. Separate households. And still end up blissfully satisfied with yourselves and with each other. (Heck, you might even enjoy the seductive feeling of sneaking into the bed of your partner of 10 years as if you are with them for the first time, who knows?)


There are no rules. You make up your own. With each other, through loving communication.