Want to sleep better? Sharing a bed with your partner may do the trick

"One could say that while your body is a bit unrulier when sleeping with somebody, your brain is not"

30 June 2020 - 08:17 By AFP Relaxnews
New research suggests that our sleep synchronizes with our partner's when we sleep in the same bed.
New research suggests that our sleep synchronizes with our partner's when we sleep in the same bed.
Image: gorodenkoff/iStock via AFP Relaxnews

A small new European study has found that couples who sleep in the same bed together might get a better night's sleep.

Carried out by German, Danish and US researchers, the new study looked at 12 healthy, heterosexual couples who were asked to sleep for four nights in a sleep laboratory.

The researchers measured various sleep parameters when the participants slept both alone and with a partner, using dual simultaneous polysomnography. Researchers Dr. Henning Johannes Drews explains that this method is a "very exact, detailed and comprehensive method to capture sleep on many levels — from brain waves to movements, respiration, muscle tension, movements, heart activity."

The participants were also asked to complete questionnaires to record different aspects of their relationships including relationship duration and the degree of passionate love they felt for their partner.

The findings, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, showed that rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep increased by 10 percent and was less disrupted when the couples slept together, compared to when they slept individually.

The researchers say this finding is important because REM sleep, which is linked with having more vivid dreams, may also play a role in regulating our emotions, consolidating memories, social interactions and creative problem solving.

The team also found that the more significant the relationship was to the participants, the more synchronised their sleep patterns were with their partner when sleeping together. The participants' limbs also moved more when sharing a bed, although this didn't disrupt their sleep. "One could say that while your body is a bit unrulier when sleeping with somebody, your brain is not," says Dr. Drew.

Although the study only looked at a small number of couples and the research is still in its early days, Dr. Drew says that "sleeping with a partner might actually give you an extra boost regarding your mental health, your memory, and creative problem-solving skills."

Further research could also answer more of the questions surrounding the subject. "The first thing that is important to be assessed in the future is whether the partner-effects we found (promoted REM sleep during co-sleep) are also present in a more diverse sample (e.g., elderly, or if one partner suffers from a disease)," says Dr. Drew.