9 October 2009
While sharing a bed would seem to be an obvious sign of a healthy relationship, it may be harmful to a person’s health.
A British sleep expert says couples should consider sleeping apart to improve their health. Dr Neil Stanley, chair of the British Sleep Society, told the recent British Science Festival evidence was accumulating that potential sleep loss from sharing a bed could lead to poor health outcomes.
Recent research had shown that there was a 50 per cent chance of being woken up when your partner moved, while women especially suffered from poor sleep if their partner snored, he said.
Dr Stanley, the head of one of Britain’s leading sleep research centres, said while sleep was often an overlooked contributor to poor health, it had been linked to depression, cardiovascular disease, stroke, lung disorders, and traffic and industrial accidents, as well as being a factor in many divorces.
The modern tradition of sharing a martial bed only began in the industrial revolution, he said, with working-class people needing to share due to space constraints in small urban houses.
Even today, Dr Stanley said, data showed as couples aged, they increasingly slept apart, and as many as 40 per cent of couples in their late 70s had separate beds.
Other experts disagree. Austrian researcher Dr Michael Perlis (PhD) says the evidence is mixed. His research revealed sharing a bed seemed to affect only the sleep of women, not that of men.
Last Reviewed: 09 October 2009