It can be a vicious cycle: you’re stressed at work, and you carry those anxious thoughts to bed with you, awaking at 3 am and lying awake for an hour or more. So tomorrow you’re sleep-deprived, and not able to think as quickly on your feet, leading to more stress at work, less sleep at home, and so on. And with all your tossing and turning, your mate is ready to move to a different bedroom.
Or as a menopausal woman, you have those cycles of hot/cold/hot/cold during the night, awakening each time. Or you’ve put on weight as you’ve gotten older, and your sleep partner says your snoring is robbing his/her sleep. Or, none of the above is true for you – it’s one of the kids who keeps waking up (and therefore waking you up.) The result? You’re sleep deprived.
One sleep aid that doctors and clinicians are now lending more credence to is the theory that having a “sleep buddy” can help you sleep more soundly. Just having someone in the bed with you can help you relax and fall asleep faster, and hopefully – stay asleep.
A recent Wall Street Journal online article interviewed Dr. Rachel Salas, assistant medical director for Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep, who says we as humans feel safer knowing someone is lying close beside us. “Humans are social creatures. We want someone nearby.”
Throughout history, sleeping together has been essential for warmth and protection. Instinctively as children we know this – a bad dream sends a child into an older sibling’s or parents’ bed.
When is it better to sleep alone? If you’re an extremely light sleeper and small noises awaken you, or when your partner is sick and contagious, or if the two of you differ widely in sleep temperatures, separate beds may be the better choice.
Conversely, sticking it out together can help one partner observe possible sleep disorders of the other, such as apnea. In short, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer: you’ll need to try out your options and decide for yourself, and then reassess them in a few months.
A “sleep buddy” doesn’t have to be your significant other. For you or your chronically awake-at-night child, it can be the family dog or cat. For your child, it may be an ongoing bedtime ritual or a favorite stuffed animal. There are other “sleep buddy” products on the market similar to a night light – all are geared to help the child feel that he or she is in a safe environment so that relaxation (and sleep!) come more easily.
Lastly, don’t overlook your mattress. If it’s old or lumpy, it could be robbing you of sleep, even though it still feels comfortable!
Your turn: has a “sleep buddy” helped or hindered your sleep?