08:48 10 September 2009
Snoring, kicking, punching and stealing the covers these are all too common problems for the millions who suffer disrupted sleep because of their partner.
Despite these issues, many still share a bed with their sleep depriving other halves, battling through the night for some shut eye.
However, a leading sleep scientist has spoken out about our obsession to sleep next to another for comfort while enduring broken sleep. But rather than help cement a relationship, sharing a bed with someone who is likely to disturb your slumber can drive a wedge between a couple.
According to sleep specialist Dr Neil Stanley, sleeping in separate beds will not only avoid arguments over duvet-hogging and snoring, but couples will also enjoy a deeper, more peaceful slumber alone.
The scientist, who himself sleeps in a separate bed to his wife, said that the modern tradition of the marital bed only began with the industrial revolution, when people moving to overcrowded towns and cities found themselves short on living space.
Before the Victorian era it was not uncommon for married couples to sleep apart. In ancient Rome, the marital bed was a place for sexual congress but not for sleeping.
Dr Stanley, who set up one of Britain's leading sleep laboratories at the University of Surrey, said the people of today should consider doing the same. He pointed out that the British way to have a 4ft 6in double bed, leaves you with an average nine inches less sleeping space than a child in a typical 2ft 6in or 3ft single.
His advice follows that of recent research at the University of Surrey, which tested the impact of tossing or turning on another's sleep. They found that when one partner moves in his or her sleep, there is a 50% chance the other will have their sleep disturbed, changing position also.
Dr Robert Meadows, a sociologist at the University of Surrey, said: "People actually feel that they sleep better when they are with a partner but the evidence suggests otherwise."
Despite this, many couples are reluctant to sleep apart. A small 8% of those aged between 40 and 60 sleep in separate rooms, while it is more common in those aged 70+, with over 40% sleeping apart.
Leading sleep specialist Dr Stanley advised that if you sleep fine then there's no need to alter your habits. However, if there is a problem we should remain open minded:
"It's about what makes you happy: "If you've been sleeping together and you both sleep perfectly well, then don't change, but don't be afraid to do something different.
"We all know what it's like to have a cuddle and then say 'I'm going to sleep now' and go to the opposite side of the bed. So why not just toddle off down the landing?"
Studies have shown a lack of sleep is linked to depression, heart disease, strokes, lung disorders, traffic and industrial accidents, and divorce - yet sleep is largely ignored as an important aspect of health.
"Intimacy is important for emotional health. But good sleep is important for physical, emotional and mental health," he said.
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