How To Maintain A Solid Relationship With Your Conflicting Sleep Schedules

Relationships can be a lot of work – even when you get to spend time with your partner every day. Add night shift schedules and natural early bird vs. night owl tendencies and issues can arise quickly from lack of quality time together.

There is hope for couples who spend less time together than they’d like. Whether you have opposite sleep schedules and rarely see each other, or you just like to go to bed early while he always sleeps in, we’ve got four tips to help keep your relationship going strong.

Prioritize time together.

This may seem obvious, but experts suggest that whatever time you can spend together, you should. If time is especially limited, you may want to consider holding off on talking about shared bills and other more household-related tasks, and communicate about those via email so that your physical time together can remain positive and more intimate.

“It might seem impossible, but the most important thing you can do is schedule time together,” writes Thorin Klosowski for Lifehacker. “Whether this is just a couple of meals together a week or a full day off together, make sure you’re making time for the other person whenever you can.”

Creating a shared calendar online – or a real one that you hang on a wall in your house – can help both parties plan ahead. Knowing when your significant other has a long weekend available or even just an afternoon free can help you fit in time together – or allow you to make a sweet gesture with a surprise.

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Consider sleeping separately.

While it may be hard to imagine spending even more time apart from your significant other, in some cases sleeping in separate beds– especially when sleep disturbances are a constant issue – can help partners stay more well-rested and happier.

“Sometimes one partner’s nighttime behaviors – loud snoring, sleep talking, restless movements and so forth – are too disruptive,” says the National Sleep Foundation. “In other cases, the ‘fit’ between the couple’s sleeping habits is the problem. Add in conflicting sleep times, differing work schedules and TV habits or electronics and you can see why some partners give up.”

Dr. Jeffrey Durmer, neurologist, sleep medicine physician and Chief Medical Officer at FusionHealth, told NBCNews.com that people who aren’t getting enough sleep tend to experience a lack of judgment, and say and do things they wouldn’t generally do if well-rested.

“People are unable to process emotional content as well when they’re sleep-deprived,” he says. “For a couple, this could lead to miscommunication and perhaps worse relationship issues, and sometimes when you’re sleep-deprived that concept of being mindful of each other and taking each other into consideration, that all goes away.”

Plan time for intimacy.

Whether or not you sleep in the same bed at the same time, there can be benefits to scheduling romantic time with your significant other.

Alicia Sinclair, certified sex educator, told NBCNews.com that since most of us have sex in our bedroom, often before falling asleep together, sleeping in separate beds or rooms just means that a little bit of extra effort, planning and commitment might be necessary. Sinclair said she recommends scheduling sex, even if planning in advance seems to take some of the fun out of it.

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Learn to enjoy your alone time.

Operating on different schedules may seem isolating and frustrating at first, but it’s possible to embrace the alone time and make the most of it without becoming resentful.

“Initially, I didn’t like the thought of spending every single night alone. The reality quickly set in that there would be no shared dinners each evening, no spontaneous after-work drinks for the two of us and no waking up together in the mornings for a quick coffee before heading to work,” wrote Sophie Baker for Elite Daily. “You know what, though? I surprised myself. Slowly but surely, I started to enjoy the time alone and see it as a luxury not everybody is lucky enough to experience regularly.”

Even couples who don’t necessarily sleep alone but go to bed and wake up at different times can benefit from the extra independence, say experts.

“Especially in marriages that have gone on for a long time, I hear complaints about not being able to meet with the girlfriends enough or go drinking with the guys,” said Till Roenneberg, a professor of chronobiology at Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, to the New York Times. “If both parties accept their differences, the late type can go out with the boys at night, and the early type can meet her girlfriends in the morning.”

The silver lining.

If you are working towards a happier relationship despite differing work and sleep schedules, all hope is not lost. Heather Gunn, a psychologist and couples sleep researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, told the New York Times that the most important thing she’s learned is that couples do not need to sleep at the same time in order to have a healthy relationship.

“There’s even some evidence that well-adjusted couples who have mismatched sleep schedules are actually much better at problem-solving,” she said. Gunn also advises couples who sleep at different times to make sure they find other times to connect. 

[Editor’s Note: The information provided should not be considered a substitute for professional advice. Please consult a sleep doctor or other medical expert if you have questions related to your own health.]

Featured image: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

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Katie Golde

Katie manages the day to day operations of the Mattress Clarity news site and reviews sleep products in addition to writing and editing sleep news. She hails from Austin, where she lives with her growing family. She has a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University and has a background in health and science content. Her work can be found in print and online publications like Discover Magazine, USA Today and The Huffington Post.

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