En español | Most couples enter long-term relationships assuming they'll share the same bed for life. But after the age of 50, sharing a sleeping space can strain relationships and ruin sex. You might feel more loving toward one another — and enjoy sex more — if you slept in separate beds, or even different rooms.
See also: 5 habits of successful couples.
I marvel at my 20-something kids' ability to sleep soundly almost anywhere — on sofas, airplanes, air mattresses, even on the floor — without regard to sunlight or even loud noises. I used to be able to do that, too. But now, if the room isn't silent and pitch dark, I'm tossing and turning. Speaking of tossing and turning, my wife, Anne, does a fair amount of it, which wakes me. But who am I to complain? Most nights, I snore like a chain saw, which sometimes drives her into the guest room.
It took years of complaining about my snoring before Anne could bring herself to leave our shared bed for quieter surrounding. She believed deeply that "till death do us part" included sleeping arrangements. Anne tried earplugs and stabbing me with sharp elbows. I tried training myself to sleep on my side, the position that minimizes snoring, and sewing a tennis ball into a pocket on the back of my pajama tops to make sure I wouldn't sleep on my back, the position that makes snoring most likely. I also tried using a special pillow and abstaining from alcohol within three hours of retiring. Everything helped, but nothing solved the problem.
Then Anne started emailing me information about expensive gadgets and even more costly palate-reduction or -stiffening surgery that claimed to end snoring once and for all. The gadgets did not inspire confidence, and I was not about to spend a fortune for surgery when all one of us had to do was relocate across the hall.
Meanwhile, after my snoring disrupted Anne's sleep for a few consecutive nights, my kind, loving and understanding, not to mention alluring, bride became no less alluring, but somewhat less kind, loving and understanding.
This strained things out of bed — and dampened her enthusiasm for that other thing we do in bed.
Anne is not alone. Estimates vary, but authorities agree that men sleep out loud considerably more than premenopausal women. Once women become menopausal, they become more likely to snore, but men still snore more.
Of course, men are not the only sleep villains. During the years-long menopausal transition, many women feel uncomfortably hot at night and kick off the covers, leaving the men in their lives shivering — and sometimes decamping for the guest bed.
In addition, as people get older, they usually sleep less soundly and become more particular about the required conditions for restful sleep. Some need total darkness or silence or the warmth of a down comforter. Others need a window open, a cool breeze and a light blanket. If your needs seriously clash, it might be time for separate bedrooms.
Chances are you know couples who sleep separately, but few talk about it for fear of teasing. My humble suggestion: Give it a try. If you can't sleep comfortably with the one you love, don't. Sleeping apart may not be what you envisioned when you said, "I do," but if your sleep needs are incompatible, you'll feel better rested and happier in separate beds or bedrooms — and you'll probably feel more loving and enjoy sex more, too.
Finally, if snoring is the issue, before you abandon your noisy bedmate, listen carefully. Loud snoring punctuated by choking silences is a classic sign of obstructive sleep apnea. "Apnea" means not breathing. It's snoring that sucks the airway closed, which reduces oxygen in the blood and raises risk of heart attack and stroke. If you hear choked silences between snores, and your honey tends to doze off during the day, apnea is likely and the person should see a doctor.
Longtime sex educator Michael Castleman, M.A., answers sexuality questions for free at GreatSexAfter40.com.