U of M professor explores spooning, snoring and sheet stealing

August 15, 2006

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL ( 8/15/2006 ) --Snoring, spooning, stealing the sheets and sleeping in the nude -- for the millions of people who share a bed with a partner, University of Minnesota family social science professor Paul Rosenblatt's new book explores the challenges and benefits of "sleeping together."

In his newly-released book, "Two in a Bed: The Social System of Couple Bed Sharing," Rosenblatt examines the dynamic of couples sharing their sleeping space. "Two in a Bed" is a groundbreaking book in the field of sleep and relationships. While a plethora of writing exists about adults sleeping as an individual phenomenon, until now there was no book about sharing a bed, even though it's a part of millions of couples' lives.

"Sharing a bed is a complicated, changing and often a challenging experience and no one had written about it," Rosenblatt said. In his study for the book, Rosenblatt interviewed 42 bed-sharing couples. He examines what it means to share a bed with someone else, how it affects the couple's relationship, how the relationship affects the bed sharing and how couples dealt with the complexities of sharing a bed.

For most couples, their time chatting in bed is the most time they have to talk with each other on a daily basis and that talk can be crucially important to their relationship, Rosenblatt said.

"Lots of couples say that if they can both stay awake, they talk for a few minutes each night," Rosenblatt said.

Many couples told Rosenblatt about how important sleeping in the same bed is to them, because it's a time for intimacy, pleasure and feeling comfortable together. During the time before drifting off to sleep, couples catch up on what's going on with one another, plan, make decisions, deal with disagreements and solve problems.

"If couples don't have this time in bed, then they're in trouble," Rosenblatt said.

"Many of the couples interviewed said they would get a better night's sleep apart, but they don't want to sleep apart because of the intimacy of sharing a bed, the security and the sense of belonging together," Rosenblatt said.

Many books on sleep offer advice to individuals on how to sleep well, but those books do not delve into the connections between individual sleep and couple bed sharing, Rosenblatt said. One partner's health problems, snoring, or work tensions can impact the other's sleeping. Two people differ in hundreds of ways, and those differences can create trouble when people share a bed -- deep sleepers versus light sleepers, night-owls versus early birds and people who need the covers tucked in versus people who need them untucked. Those differences can be issues for a couple and how the differences are addressed can affect both partner's sleep. And, one partner's sleep problem can be a problem for the other. "For example," Rosenblatt said, " his insomnia can wreck her sleep."

Snoring is a common issue for couples and each couple finds their own ways to resolve the difficulty. For some, it involves a simple nudge and for others, it was more extreme like the couple sleeping on separate floors, he said.

People who have never shared a bed together have to learn how to do it. "Some people have spent years sprawled out across the bed or wrapped up in a blanket and suddenly they have to adjust to sleeping with someone," Rosenblatt said.

"As life changes, people have to learn how to sleep together and not just once, but again and again," Rosenblatt said.

If one partner has an injury or chronic illness or when the couples have kids, the couple needs to adjust to the new circumstances. An interesting finding in Rosenblatt's study involved life and death. "Some couples feel that their sleeping together has meant that one of them saved the life of the other," he said.

In fact, while some couples don't touch while they sleep, it was fortunate that one couple spoons all night.

"One couple was spooning as they slept when the woman had a seizure with minor movement and the husband woke up immediately and called 9-1-1," Rosenblatt said. "This couple felt like the woman might have died had they not been spooning."

At least two of the couples interviewed by Rosenblatt dealt with suicidal possibilities. "To keep the other partner alive, one man tied his wife's wrist to his wrist, so then he would know if she moved or got out of bed," Rosenblatt said.

Some people, especially women, felt a sense of security with their partner sleeping next to them.

"They feel that their partner will be an ally for them in facing an intruder," Rosenblatt said. "Some men joke they they don't think they would be any help, just another victim, but others feel protective, tough, and up to the job."
-end-
The University of Minnesota is one of the largest, most comprehensive public universities in the world and ranks among the most prestigious. A land-grant university founded in 1851, it is located on the banks of the historic Mississippi River and in the heart of one of the nation's most thriving and culturally-diverse metropolitan areas. The U of M's strong tradition of education, research and public service attract a student body and faculty driven to discover some of the leading advances in medicine, engineering, agriculture and quality of life.

Rosenblatt is available nationwide for interviews.

University of Minnesota

Related Sleep Articles from Brightsurf:

Size and sleep: New research reveals why little things sleep longer
Using data from humans and other mammals, a team of scientists including researchers from the Santa Fe Institute has developed one of the first quantitative models that explains why sleep times across species and during development decrease as brains get bigger.

Wind turbine noise affects dream sleep and perceived sleep restoration
Wind turbine noise (WTN) influences people's perception of the restorative effects of sleep, and also has a small but significant effect on dream sleep, otherwise known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, a study at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, shows.

To sleep deeply: The brainstem neurons that regulate non-REM sleep
University of Tsukuba researchers identified neurons that promote non-REM sleep in the brainstem in mice.

Chronic opioid therapy can disrupt sleep, increase risk of sleep disorders
Patients and medical providers should be aware that chronic opioid use can interfere with sleep by reducing sleep efficiency and increasing the risk of sleep-disordered breathing, according to a position statement from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

'Short sleep' gene prevents memory deficits associated with sleep deprivation
The UCSF scientists who identified the two known human genes that promote 'natural short sleep' -- nightly sleep that lasts just four to six hours but leaves people feeling well-rested -- have now discovered a third, and it's also the first gene that's ever been shown to prevent the memory deficits that normally accompany sleep deprivation.

Short sleep duration and sleep variability blunt weight loss
High sleep variability and short sleep duration are associated with difficulties in losing weight and body fat.

Nurses have an increased risk of sleep disorders and sleep deprivation
According to preliminary results of a new study, there is a high prevalence of insufficient sleep and symptoms of common sleep disorders among medical center nurses.

Common sleep myths compromise good sleep and health
People often say they can get by on five or fewer hours of sleep, that snoring is harmless, and that having a drink helps you to fall asleep.

Sleep tight! Researchers identify the beneficial role of sleep
Why do animals sleep? Why do humans 'waste' a third of their lives sleeping?

Does extra sleep on the weekends repay your sleep debt? No, researchers say
Insufficient sleep and untreated sleep disorders put people at increased risk for metabolic problems, including obesity and diabetes.

Read More: Sleep News and Sleep Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.