To sleep, perchance to dream, perchance to roll over, smack your bedmate in the nose and confiscate the quilt. Such is sleeping double in...
To sleep, perchance to dream, perchance to roll over, smack your bedmate in the nose and confiscate the quilt.
Such is sleeping double in a double bed. Or a queen- or king-size bed.
When a snoozing Rob Lineweaver began stealing the covers, wife Kelly was puzzled. “He’s not at all a selfish person,” she said. Rob was defensive. “I deny that there was intent to increase my own comfort at the expense of my wife’s.”
Bedding down with another can be cozy, or a challenge. Mostly it’s both. So says a professor with a new book — one of few, if there are in fact others, on the subject.
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“Two in a Bed: The Social System of Couple Bed Sharing” examines what happens after the “good nights” are said but before the alarm jangles and you find yourself tangled in sheets, your mate and a snoring dog.
“Nobody was writing about this,” said Paul C. Rosenblatt, a family social-science professor at the University of Minnesota. “In my own life and the lives of friends, I was hearing about struggles to share a bed. I knew this was an important topic.”
The National Sleep Foundation offers confirmation. Its 2005 Sleep in America Poll revealed that 35 percent of adults attribute relationship problems to their own or their partner’s abnormal sleep habits; 23 percent actually end up at some point in a separate bed, bedroom or on the couch.
One of the common complaints among bed partners, according to the National Sleep Foundation, is snoring. The nonprofit group estimates that at some point it affects 90 million adults, about 37 million on a regular basis. Here are some coping tips:
The snorer should try to lose weight. That reduces fat deposits in the throat, a common trigger.
Also try using an adhesive nasal strip or a dental appliance. Those both help ease breathing.
Avoid alcohol and cigarettes before bedtime. They create airway muscle vibrations and nasal congestion.
Prop pillows so the snorer remains on his or her side or stomach.
The snoring partner should wear a snug T-shirt with a pocket sewn onto the area between the shoulder blades. Put a tennis ball into the pocket. Then the snorer will not roll onto his or her back.
If all else fails, the snorer’s bed partner can try earplugs or white-noise machines.
When Rosenblatt issued a press release from his office in St. Paul looking for couples to discuss sleeping together, “I got hundreds and hundreds of calls.”
Security … and snoring
He chose the “first 50 or so,” everyone from newlyweds in their 20s to pairs in their 70s; from low income to rich; healthy as well as affected by illness.
Through in-depth interviews he heard how these duos learned to share a bed. “They got strong instructions from their partner,” Rosenblatt said. “Either the partner yelled, or pushed, or said, ‘Don’t do that!’ “
He also discovered that life intrudes. “A different job, a deadline, a new boss, someone in the extended family dying, all come to bed with a couple. And it affects sleeping.” Tensions may prompt insomnia in one person, which often awakens the other.
And, of course, “snoring is a big issue.”
Not all experiences were negative. The majority of couples reported spending quiet time chatting in bed before drifting off. Women especially reported feeling more secure when sleeping with a mate.
One husband kept his potentially suicidal wife’s wrist tethered to his own, ensuring her safety. Another spouse was awakened during a partner’s seizure and able to quickly assist.
Overall, Rosenblatt came away with “a feeling that the bed is the nest, a place of safety from a world outside that can be bruising and unpleasant,” he said. “You get the sense of two animals in a den.”
The Lineweavers’ “den,” in Harrisonburg, Va., was indeed a peaceful spot. “Sharing a bed was a natural fit,” said Kelly. She’s 26; Rob is 27. They’ve been married four years.
But months back, a strange occurrence: A slumbering Rob pulled the covers off Kelly. Repeatedly.
“He promised to stop, and was even more surprised the next morning when I told him he had stolen the covers again,” Kelly said.
“My behavior while asleep can’t be consciously controlled,” Rob admitted.
The couple pondered a solution. “Rob was not keen on me wearing flannel pajamas” to keep warm sans covers, Kelly said.
But they did develop a few techniques: Keep the covers tucked firmly in place. Set the thermostat warmer.
And if Rob does manage to yank the covers, “I just slide over to Rob’s side and snuggle up against him. So I guess you could even say that Rob’s cover-stealing has brought us closer together.”
What’s your position?
Similar dramas were playing out among writer Evany Thomas’ cohorts.
“I’m a full-contact sleeper, so it was a shock to discover that some of my friends are totally the opposite: For them, any contact after ‘good night’ gives them hives,” said Thomas, of San Francisco. “We all had such specific opinions and ideals when it came to sleeping style.”
That inspired her book, “The Secret Language of Sleep: A Couple’s Guide to the Thirty-Nine Positions,” with illustrator Amelia Bauer, a sweet and silly look at how pairs unknowingly choreograph their own dances of slumber.
In addition to the Classic Spoons position — nestled together, front-to-back — Thomas named 38 others including the Cliffhanger, with hands dangling over the edge; the Tetherball, just one outstretched arm touching; and Paper Dolls, both on backs, one hand and foot in contact. (For a fun quiz on your pose, go to www.evany.com/sleeptest.)
Thomas playfully challenges sleepers to try something different.
“I recommend that all couples, even those completely happy with their pose, set aside a few weeks a year to explore a sampling of new poses,” she said. “A sleeping position can grow obsolete over time, and it’s important to make sure your pose is still up to snuff.”
Photographer David Bleiman Ichioka has shot all those poses and more over the past 15 years in his “Sleep Pictures” series. He’s long been fascinated with how folks look while in repose.
“Most people are pleasantly surprised,” said Ichioka, who lives just outside San Francisco, in Corte Madera. “They’re afraid they’ll look slack-jawed and drooling. But most look really good — relaxed, pretty nice.”
He photographs couples, singles, families, children, people with their pets, the gamut of snoozers. Ichioka installs a camera above the bed that automatically captures an image every 20 to 30 minutes. The result is an intimate look at America unconscious.
Couples, he’s noticed, “almost always start out close together, drift apart, then come together in the morning.”
After seeing their photographs, they’re also a bit surprised.
“They say things like, ‘I didn’t know the cat was atop my head last night.’ “