Monday, January 16, 2006

Journal: "Estranged Bedfellows"

Do you and your mate snuggle happily together under the comforter of your choosing, drifting off to sleep in a lazy half-embrace, each dreaming of the beloved bed-buddy? Or do you, like me and mine, sleep apart? An article in the WaPo today chronicles the stories of some of those couple who share homes, checking accounts, bathrooms, even, but not beds.

We starting sleeping solo a few years ago after struggling for several years with the hey-shut-up- you're-too-noisy-hey-quit-poking-me-well-you-sound-like-a-drowning-water-buffalo-over-there-and- what's-with-the-nocturnal-calisthenics-well-I-don't-know-I-was-asleep-which-I'm-not-anymore thing. My dearest turned out to have restless leg syndrome (RLS), which was driving me crazy, and my thrice-nightly trips to the bathroom were not helping matters. It started out with one of us (usually she) leaving in the wee hours at the other's invitation. Eventually, we decided it might be easier if we just started out that way. Now, every so often we accidentally drop a reference to "my bedroom" or "your bedroom" in the company of someone who's not in on the arrangement, and feel a bit foolish.

Do I regret it? Well, yeah. There's a level of intimacy built in to sharing a bed that disappears when you sleep separate. And I'm not just talking about going bump in the night. It's also about the incidental touches, the occasional after dark conversations, the glimpses of skin. I miss all of that. And for that reason, I'll sometimes declare a truce in spite of the potential of lost sleep.

But it's more complicated than that for me. MS has put a real damper on our sex life. Sometimes I feel like by sleeping separately, I give up the few moments of intimacy that separate us from simple housemates. I miss waking up in the morning and hearing my wife mumble about how she dreamed she was appearing in a revival of Oklahoma or how I had appeared at Thanksgiving dinner dressed up as a woman (my wife has a very vivid dream life). I have to admit that I started in getting in the habit of letting the dog sleep on the bed with me because it felt nice to have a warm, breathing thing next to me in bed.

Multiple sclerosis places so many of its own burdens on intimacy. I wonder if by sleeping apart in the interest of uninterrupted sleep I'm playing right into its hand.

According to a 2005 National Sleep Foundation survey, 23 percent of partnered adults frequently sleep solo because of their loved one's snoring, kicking or other sleep problem. That number doesn't include those who bed down apart because of mismatched schedules or desire for different room temperatures, or to let an exhausted spouse avoid a tyke's wake-up calls. And though a small number of couples who opt for separate beds do so to recapture a sense of romance, for most, there's one simple fantasy: some decent rest. In fact, according to the National Sleep Foundation survey of 1,506 adults, disruptive bedmates rob their partners, on average, of 49 minutes of shut-eye each night.


1 comment:

Beth said...

Yes, I admit to getting my nighttime othersource of body warmth from my dog. I enjoy the warm body, the occasional paw on my back or on my arm, and appreciate that someone is happy that I am awake in the morning (to give them the a.m. belly rub). Although as she ages, she is getting less enthusiastic about mornings.