The majority of Americans—60 percent—sleep in a bed with someone else. While sharing a bed is a natural part of being in a relationship, there is a downside: Your partner’s habits can wreak havoc on the quality of your sleep. And it isn’t just loud snoring or tossing and turning that can cause problems—you and your partner might also have completely different circadian rhythms. In fact, women and men often have different sleep cycles. Women tend to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier than men—and the difference can be up to two hours.
Unfortunately, this can cause issues not just in the quality of sleep that you get (it can be tough to drift off at night or stay asleep in the morning when you hear your partner moving around or watching TV) but also in your relationship, since different sleep habits lead to less time spent together.
So what should you do?
Well, you can’t just force your partner’s circadian rhythm to match yours. Going against your body’s natural schedule can be really hard to do, plus it can make you perform worse at work. Each of you could, however, try to make small changes to your sleep/wake cycles. For instance, if you like to go to bed at 10:00pm, but your husband likes to go to bed at 11:00pm, perhaps you can both make slight adjustments and compromise on a 10:30pm bedtime. This can be done gradually, in 10-minute increments. But if your schedules are extremely different, a compromise may not be possible.
Another solution: Change the way that you think about having a different sleep schedule than your partner. It might actually be a good thing! You each can get some alone time to do what you want while your partner is asleep. There’s another silver lining: People tend to sleep better when they have the bed to themselves—which you both do for a few hours each night. The key is being thoughtful about the person who is still asleep by not doing things like turning on loud music.
That said, make sure that you and your partner are still having quality time together. Partners with mismatched circadian rhythms have less time to talk to each other and do activities together, so make sure to prioritize time for just the two of you—this might mean, for example, scheduling a regular date night. Working around different circadian rhythms will help make you more flexible and adaptable as a couple and better able to solve problems.