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The cover of the book Two in a Bed.

Professor Paul Rosenblatt new book explores the challenges and benefits of sleeping together.

Of spooning, snoring and sheet stealing

By Patty Mattern

Aug. 18, 2006

Snoring, spooning, stealing the sheets and sleeping in the nude... In 2001, University of Minnesota family social science professor Paul Rosenblatt set out to study the sleep habits of bed-sharing adults. His most striking find: "It's often not easy sleeping together but people keep doing it."

This month, Rosenblatt's book on the challenges and benefits of sleeping together has hit the bookstores. "Two in a Bed: The Social System of Couple Bed Sharing" is groundbreaking in the field of sleep and relationships. While a plethora of writing exists on sleep issues, 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," says Rosenblatt.

Rosenblatt interviewed 42 bed-sharing couples for his book, which offers an in-depth look at what it means to share a bed with someone else, how slumbering together affects the couple's relationship, how the relationship affects the nocturnal dynamics and how couples dealt with the complexities of sharing a bed.

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

"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," says Rosenblatt.

Rosenblatt says that for most couples, the time spent 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. "If couples don't have this time in bed, then they're in trouble," he says.

Harmonious sleeping, however, is an acquired skill.

One partner's health problems, snoring or work tensions can impact the other's sleep. Differences in sleep habits can also be problematic: sleepers versus light sleepers, night owls versus early birds and people who need the covers tucked in versus whose who don't.

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, says Rosenblatt.

People who have never shared a bed 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," says Rosenblatt.

Life changes also demand compromise in the bedroom.

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 says. "One couple was spooning as they slept when the woman had a seizure with minor movement and the husband woke up immediately and called 911."

At least two of the couples Rosenblatt had interviewed 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," says Rosenblatt.

Some people, especially women, felt safer with their partner sleeping next to them.

"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," says Rosenblatt.

"Two in a Bed: The Social System of Couple Bed Sharing" is available at University Bookstores for $23.95.


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