Life Wellbeing Sharing your bed most nights helps you sleep better
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Sharing your bed most nights helps you sleep better

better sleep
Sleeping with a partner delivers better sleep quality, with less incidence of sleep apnoea. Photo: Getty
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For married people, when their spouse departs on a little holiday, there may be a sincere “I miss you” spoken aloud, but on the quiet there’s a thrill at having the bed to oneself.

Plenty of room to stretch out and give way to shame-free flatulence.

However, in the main, according to a new study, adults who share a bed with a partner or spouse “most nights” sleep better than those who sleep alone.

The researchers, from the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona, say the benefits include “less severe insomnia, less fatigue, and more time asleep than those who never share a bed with a partner”.

Those sleeping with a partner “also fell asleep faster, stayed asleep longer after falling asleep, and had less risk of sleep apnoea”.

The study

The study involved an analysis of data collected in the Sleep and Health Activity, Diet, Environment, and Socialization (SHADES) study of 1007 working-age adults.

SHADES is an ongoing study from the Penn Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology, which investigates the links between sleep and diet and exercise, neighbourhoods, work and home demands.

Bed-sharing was evaluated with surveys, and sleep health factors were assessed with common tools such as the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, Insomnia Severity Index, and STOP-BANG apnoea score.

Not so great with children

In the Arizona study, the benefits of adults sharing a bed ran deep. One assumes these were successful relationships.

The study found that sleeping with a partner was “associated with lower depression, anxiety, and stress scores, and greater social support and satisfaction with life and relationships”.

However, participants who slept with their child most nights “reported greater insomnia severity, greater sleep apnoea risk, and less control over their sleep”. Sleeping with children was also associated with more stress.

For single sleepers, the news wasn’t good: Sleeping alone was associated with “higher depression scores, lower social support, and worse life and relationship satisfaction”.

“Very few research studies explore this, but our findings suggest that whether we sleep alone or with a partner, family member, or pet may impact our sleep health,” said senior study author Dr Michael Grandner, director of the sleep program at Arizona.

What about dogs and cats?

There is an astonishing amount of research about people sleeping with their pets.

A 2021 study from Central Queensland University found that half of Australian dog-owners were sharing their beds with dogs, and another 20 per cent shared their bedrooms, the dog presumably sleeping on the floor.

This was from a large survey of 1136 dog owners.

The researchers found: “The likelihood of bedsharing with one’s dog increased with participant age and bed size and was higher for individuals with small dogs than those with larger dogs.”

Bedsharing with a dog was “more common among individuals who did not have a human bed partner”.

The researchers concluded: “Bedsharing appears unlikely to impact sleep quality negatively in any meaningful way. In fact, in many cases, dog(s) in the bed may facilitate a more restful night’s sleep than when they sleep elsewhere.”

A 2018 study of adult women showed that a dog in bed was associated with comfort and security more so than sleeping with another person or a cat.

A 2011 study investigated a range of infectious diseases that had jumped from a pet in the bed and into the human owner. Among the horrors that were transmitted under the duvet were cases of bubonic plague.