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More than a third of Americans have a "sleep divorce," survey finds

The case for separate bedrooms
The case for separate bedrooms 03:16

More than a third of Americans say they occasionally or consistently sleep in another room from their partner, according to a survey from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

The practice of sleeping separately known as a "sleep divorce," and is meant to help you fall asleep and stay asleep without disruptions such as snoring, stolen covers or early alarms.

"We know that poor sleep can worsen your mood, and those who are sleep deprived are more likely to argue with their partners. There may be some resentment toward the person causing the sleep disruption which can negatively impact relationships," Dr. Seema Khosla, a pulmonologist and spokesperson for the AASM, said in a news release Monday. "Getting a good night's sleep is important for both health and happiness, so it's no surprise that some couples choose to sleep apart for their overall well-being."

The group's survey of 2,005 adults in the U.S. found that 43% of millennials engage in sleep divorce, followed by 33% of those in Generation X, 28% of those in Generation Z and 22% of baby boomers.

"Although the term 'sleep divorce' seems harsh, it really just means that people are prioritizing sleep and moving into a separate room at night when needed," Khosla added.

Should you try a sleep divorce?

"There are benefits for some partners to sleep separately," Dr. Erin Flynn-Evans, a consultant to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, recently told CBS News. "Studies demonstrate that when one bed partner has a sleep disorder it can negatively affect the other sleeper. For example, bed partners tend to wake up at the same time when one has insomnia. Similarly, when bed partners differ in chronotype, like when one is a night owl the other is an early bird, these differing sleep preferences can negatively impact both partners' sleep."

On the other hand, sleeping with your partner can help in detecting conditions you may have been unaware of, Flynn-Evans said, as sleep clinicians use reports from bed partners to help identify patients with sleep disorders.

"For example, a person might report that their bed partner snores loudly, prompting them to seek treatment for sleep apnea," she said.

Dr. Daniel Shade, a sleep specialist with Allegheny Health Network, previously told CBS Pittsburgh if couples are honest with themselves, they'll likely know whether there's a problem.

"You're snoring and you're thrashing about, (it) disturbs your partner, or you're getting up at 4 a.m. to go to work, or you have to use the bathroom many times in a night, and that can get disruptive," Shade said, noting other factors that may also affect sleep, like differing preferences in light, temperature or even TV usage at night.

But, if there are no sleep problems, Shade said, "by all means, sleeping in the same bed is better."

"We release oxytocin and some other chemicals that are called 'the cuddling hormones,' and things that give us a good feeling and bring us closer to that person we're imprinting upon that we're with," he said. 

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