Even in the depths of sleep, your brain isn’t completely isolated from those around you.
The sound of snoring, the tugging of blankets, and the fluttering of limbs all register at some level, yet far from interrupting your sleep, new research suggests that sharing a bed may actually make you feel like you’ve had a better night. . rest.
At least, that is, when you sleep with a spouse or partner; if someone sleeps regularly with their baby, they generally report more insomnia than someone who sleeps alone.
The findings are based on survey responses and sleep scores from more than 1,000 working-age adults in the United States and suggest who we sleep next to can affect how good we feel when we wake up.
Compared to those who slept alone, participants who shared a bed with their partner reported less fatigue and an ability to fall asleep faster and sleep longer.
This group also had lower depression, anxiety, and stress scores than those who slept alone.
“Sleeping with a romantic partner or spouse is shown to have great health benefits of sleep, including reducing the risk of sleep apnea, the severity of sleep insomnia, and overall improvement in sleep quality,” says psychiatrist Brandon Fuentes. of the University of Arizona.
It is unclear whether the improvements in mental health are due to the benefits of co-sleep or the quality of the romantic relationship in general. It could also be a little bit of both.
In general, people in committed relationships exhibit better physical and mental health than those who are single.
It is difficult to decipher why this is. There are so many variables that affect the body and mind throughout life. Add in the mysterious nature of sleep and the picture becomes even more murky.
Most studies that have explored the benefits of sleeping alone or sharing a bed have relied on self-reported quality of sleep, just like this one did.
Only a few studies have delved into how sleeping with a romantic partner actually affects crucial neurological stages of sleep, such as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
Interestingly, limited research on this topic has found that couples not only synchronize their movements during sleep, but also synchronize their sleep phases. When couples slept in the same bed, their REM sleep increased by 10% and was less interrupted than when they slept alone.
Interpersonal synchronization is linked to prosocial behavior, social bonding, and positive affection, all of which have mental health benefits.
This may be part of why polls continue to find evidence that couples feel better when they sleep together.
Another survey released earlier this year found that respondents thought they would fall asleep faster at night if they shared a bed with a long-term partner.
Unfortunately, surveys like these can’t tell us how sleeping with a partner actually improves a person’s sleep, only that there is a correlation.
It may be that a person simply thinks they have slept better when, in reality, they have not.
To get around this problem, some research has relied on smartwatches that record movements during sleep.
One of these studies found that movement at night increases when a person sleeps next to their partner, falling in sync with the other person. But just because there is more movement at night doesn’t necessarily mean sleep was worse.
Without further research, the jury decides whether sleeping with a partner is better for you, or just different from sleeping alone.
The research was presented at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.