Shine On

Share a bed with your partner for better sleep, better health

Research suggests people who sleep with a partner are psychologically better off. (Thinkstock)Sure, he might steal the duvet or she might want the thermostat a few degrees higher, but recent research points to better sleep for couples who share a bed.

The Wall Street Journal's Andrea Petersen looks at the new research in which "some scientists believe that sleeping with a partner may be a major reason why people with close relationships tend to be in better health and live longer."

"Sleep is a critically important health behaviour that we know is associated with heart disease and psychiatric well-being," says Wendy M. Troxel, an assistant professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. "It happens to be this health behaviour that we do in couples."

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In Troxel's research, she found that women in long-term stable relationships fell asleep more quickly — and slept more soundly — than single women or women who lost or gained a partner during the eight-year duration of her study.

Why? The science is still too new to tell, but some of the hypotheses connect sleeping with a partner to reduced levels of stress hormones — thanks to feelings of safety and security — and others assume that the "love hormone" oxytocin is released, easing anxiety and helping the body relax.

Yes, that late-night cuddle is good for your sleep. And it's good for your relationship.

In a 2010 study of 29 couples, researchers found that women slept better at night when they had fewer negative interactions with their partners during the day. Men, on the other hand, found that a good night's sleep helped better the way they interacted with their partners in waking hours.

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Not sleeping well, however, can create problems in a relationship — especially when the poor sleeper is the wife, according the medical website WebMD.

What about couples who find sleeping together difficult? There are strategies to overcoming issues like opposing sleep schedules, stolen covers and loud snoring, Petersen reports. And scientists behind this new research say it's worth tackling the issues rather than resorting to separate bedrooms.

"The psychological benefits we get having closeness at night trump the objective costs of sleeping with a partner," Troxel says.

Do you share a bed with a partner? How's your sleep?

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