World Sleep Day: How to sleep if you share a bed with someone who struggles to drift off

Getting a good night’s kip can be a challenge

Suffering from a sleep disorder can take a massive toll on a person’s mental health, but it’s no easy being kept awake by your bedmate’s continual tossing and turning.

It’s thought a third of people will suffer episodes of insomnia at some point and it’s thought to have affected more people in lockdown. The number of Britons suffering sleep loss caused by worrying rose from one in six to one in four, according to research by Southampton University.

That said, it’s never too late to regain control of the sleeping habits in your relationship, and there are some steps you can take this World Sleep Day (March 19) to increase the quality of your sleep long term…

Manage the movement

When it comes to sleeping next to an insomniac, Dr Guy Meadows, co-founder of Sleep School, says it’s best to visit a bed specialist, who will be able to recommend the ideal mattress for your comfort and movement needs.

“Investing in a mattress that doesn’t transmit movement, for instance, might be a good solution,” he says. “Another option is to place two single mattresses in a double bed frame or two single beds together. If you do opt for a double mattress though, make sure it’s big enough, allowing enough sleep space for each person to move around and not be disturbed.”

Use separate bedding

It may double your washing load, but could improve your sleep. “Choosing to use separate bedding such as single sheets, duvets and quilts, reduces the chance of being woken up by a restless partner constantly pulling on the covers,” says Meadows.

Reduce the noise

Partners who are awake in the night can often disturb you by loudly tiptoeing to the bathroom, or getting up to look at their phone

“Rugs and carpets can make a huge difference throughout the house, especially if you have wooden or tiled flooring,” says EarHub’s sleep expert Sammy Margo. “Think about switching hard furniture for soft furniture too, as noises are dampened down by softer surfaces.”

Wear earplugs

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Earplugs are simple but effective, and can really make all the difference. “They work by reducing harmful or irritating noise for a better night’s sleep,” explains Margo.

If you’re a really light sleeper, you might want to invest in a more expensive pair of earplugs with noise cancelling features. Bose Sleepbuds II (£229.95) mask outside noises and stream relaxing sounds into your ears.

Manage your emotions

If you’re regularly experiencing broken sleep, it can be challenging to remain calm in the night. While getting angry at being woken up or feeling anxious about not being able to fall back asleep are commonplace, Meadows says it can fuel further wakefulness.

“At Sleep School, we’ve pioneered the use of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for sleep, which teaches us how to change the way we think and feel about difficult emotions, rather than trying to change them,” he explains. “A simple way to do this is to look at your emotions as they arise in your body and give them physical attributes such as a shape, size, weight, colour and texture.

“For example, you might say, ‘My anxiety feels like a cold black knot tightening in my stomach’.” Meadows says describing your emotions in this way can work to diffuse the power they have over you, whilst preparing your mind and body for sleep.

Recommend your partner see a sleep specialist

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Speak to a sleep specialist if you’re concerned

Restless nights impact both the sufferer and the bed-sharing partner, so you’re well within your rights to ask your loved one to seek help. “If allowed, these kinds of disturbances can cause both parties to experience unwanted daytime tiredness, low mood and potentially affect the relationship,” warns Meadows.

Visiting a sleep specialist can help identify the root cause of any restlessness, as there can be lots of different reasons why your partner can’t drift off. They could be suffering with insomnia, or it could be an entirely different issue like restless legs syndrome.

“Getting the right treatment can fast track you both to more restful sleep once again,” says Meadows.

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