Episode 6: Honey, I Want a (Sleep) Divorce

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You know the story: Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy and girl move in together and realize they have wildly different sleeping schedules, habits, and preferences. Now what? If this sounds like your relationship, don’t panic. This is really common, and it’s totally workable. In this episode, Dr. Harris talks to sleep expert and author Dr. Wendy Troxel about why a sleep divorce might be the best thing you ever do for your marriage.

Episode-related links:

The Sleep Divorce Report
New Sleeping Arrangements Could Lead to a Healthier Relationship


Dr. Wendy Troxel: It’s not as catchy a term, but I use the term sleep alliance because that’s what couples really should be focused on. How do we as a couple unit find a strategy that’s going to work best for us? It may involve sleeping together all the time. It may involve sleeping apart all the time or some combination therein.

But it’s really about allying with your partner so that you both can be well slept and both be better partners.

Dr. Shelby Harris: Welcome to Sleep Talking with Dr. Shelby, where we really want to know how are you sleeping? Are you sleeping? Two thirds of Americans wake up feeling groggy and weird, wondering why they were up at 3 a.m. Wondering if there’s something wrong with them. If that sounds like you, you have come to the right place.

I’m Dr. Shelby Harris, licensed clinical psychologist and Director of Sleep Health at Sleepopolis. Where we dive deep into all things sleep, so you can get the rest you deserve. 

Today, we’re talking about sleep divorce. Even if you don’t know the phrase, you know the story. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy and girl move in together and realize they have wildly different sleeping schedules, habits, and preferences. Now what? 

If this sounds like you and your bed partner, don’t panic. This is really common, and it’s workable. To learn why sleeping apart might be the best thing you ever do for your relationship, we’ve invited internationally recognized sleep expert, Dr. Wendy Troxel, and in my opinion, she’s a pretty big badass in the field as well. 

A senior behavioral and social scientist at the RAND Corporation, with adjunct faculty positions at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Utah, Dr. Troxel is passionate about helping people get the sleep they need to perform at their best and live life to the fullest.

Dr. Wendy, thank you so much for joining us and welcome to Sleep Talking with Dr. Shelby

WT: Thanks so much for having me. It’s great to be here with you, Dr. Shelby. 

DS: Oh, I always love talking with you. So, do you think that it was tough to get started in that field, navigating couples’ sleep and it hadn’t really ever been talked about before so much and researched. Was it a lot of stuff that you had to figure out on your own when you were really beginning research programs? 

WT: Yes, in a way, the public always sort of understood that this was, you know, important and obvious, right? Ask anyone, does your sleep matter for your relationships? Like, if you have a bad night of sleep or really chronically bad sleep, how do you behave with your partner?

Most people will tell you that bad sleep does have a negative impact on the relationship. We know you’re more irritable, you can be more depressed, you’re more likely to lash out at your partner, and vice versa. People also kind of intuitively understood that when your relationship is on the rocks, that can also disrupt your sleep.

If you have a conflict with your partner during the day, you might ruminate over that conflict at night and that could keep you up at night. So, it was sort of intuitively obvious to sort of real people at large, but the scientific community really was a little bit, I think, slow to sort of recognize the social context of sleep.

DS: Yeah. 

WT: There was sort of this early stage where I felt a bit like an imposter saying, wow, we should be considering relationships and we should be considering social environments. We got to go beyond the individual to really understand what happens in this, you know, sort of mystery of sleep. 

DS: I’m mostly in private practice and I specialize in insomnia, right? So someone’s lying awake and then they have a significant other, a bed partner, who’s snoring, who’s thrashing, tossing and turning, on their phone, that it’s, it’s always a part of the conversation of their sleep, that it’s fascinating that it really hadn’t been researched for so long. 

WT: It’s true. Yeah. And again, again, it’s sort of intuitively obvious to anyone who has slept or anyone who has been in a relationship that these things pair together. But it just wasn’t the primary focus of most sleep science. And, you know, I think that relates to sort of the history of sleep and our, you know, sort of historical measurement of sleep in a laboratory under tightly controlled settings when we try to isolate the individual as much as possible.

But we all know that that’s not what sleep in the wild looks like, right? Sleep in the wild is, you know, quite different. It’s often noisy, interrupted, and for many people, shared with a bed partner. And so that’s a critical element that was missing.

DS: The term sleep divorce, and we’ll definitely talk more about that. It has become this, I don’t know, just over the past two or three years, it’s become this thing that I’m sure you get, I mean, you have your book and we’ll talk about that, but I have been asked about it, probably every few weeks I’m asked about it by the media.

It’s become something that people are now talking about. So would you tell us a little bit about what a sleep divorce is and what you like to call it instead and why the term might not be ideal? 

WT: Sure. Sleep divorce is, you know, it’s a catchy term. That’s why it stays with us, even though most experts and most people realize the negative connotation and we probably want to do away with it.

DS: Yeah. 

WT: But at its basic level, what it refers to is couples choosing to sleep apart, whether that means separate beds or separate bedrooms, some or all of the time. And it’s become increasingly talked about as it becomes increasingly more prevalent among couples. In fact, a recent survey showed that around 25 percent of couples sleep apart at least some of the time. And there’s lots of reasons for it. 

When we talk about the terminology I prefer, it’s not as catchy a term, but I use the term sleep alliance because that’s what couples really should be focused on. How do we as a couple unit find a strategy that’s going to work best for us? It may involve sleeping together all the time. It may involve sleeping apart all the time or some combination therein. But it’s really about allying with your partner so that you both can be well slept and both be better partners. 

DS: The reason I love that term is it gets rid of the resentment that I think can happen a lot of times. And I think when we talk about a sleep divorce, it’s usually very reactive. When you talk about alliance, it really does feel like you’re a team and you’re trying to figure out how to better your relationship and your health as well. 

So what would be common sleep-related challenges for couples, and how would a sleep alliance necessarily fix that? 

WT: The most common challenges that I see in my clinical practice, snoring is the big one, you know, and it’s the butt of many jokes, but it’s a serious issue for many couples.

DS: Oh yeah. 

WT: There also can be differences in sleep wake schedules. One of you is, you know, a morning lark, who wakes up at the crack of dawn, ready to go. The other might be more of an evening owl. And you have two very different sleep schedules trying to find compatibility. And that’s really hard when you’re trying to override biology.

And as you said at the beginning of the show, you know, just because you fall in love with someone does not mean you’re automatically going to be perfectly compatible with the roughly third of our lives that we spend asleep. 

DS: Right. 

WT: So differences in sleep schedules, also differences in sort of sleep habits and preferences. One of you runs hot, the other runs cold. One of you maybe tosses and turns, whereas the other is a light sleeper. Or maybe there are children or pets that get in the way and sort of make three’s a crowd in the bedroom. These are kind of the big couple sleep issues that come up most regularly. 

And the other thing that you said, which is so true, and why a sleep alliance can be so beneficial for couples, is that it truly does imply when you’re aligning with your partner on new strategies or creative strategies, it is about being proactive. About finding ways to work through challenges that we as a couple may experience day or night. Instead of this reactive pattern, which can breed resentment and abandonment. If one partner just out of frustration, you know, stomps out of the bedroom because she or he can’t sleep because the other partner is keeping them up, right?

That’s sort of that reactive pattern and we really want to encourage couples to form an alliance around sleep so you can have proactive conversations. Couples of all types face challenges day and night. So how are we gonna work around these issues, proactively and in a healthy way at night? 

DS: So it sounds like really having open communication is a big, big piece of this, right? With any couple’s work, it’s huge. I mean, this is the thing I hear all the time, and I work with women a lot of the time, too. So it’s a lot of women who are complaining about the, oftentimes, the husband in the bed, who’s snoring a lot, and the husband’s, I’m not gonna, I don’t need to get a sleep study, I’m fine.

What would you recommend, when one person’s denying it’s even an issue, and the other person has insomnia, is being kept up even more by the snoring, or whatever the behavior might be? 

WT: Yes, this is often a challenge among couples, and how to even approach the topic is where a lot of couples get stuck. So I do have a few simple rules.

You know, first of all, this actually does apply to all relationship communication or tough conversations in particular. Number one: Time it well. So these conversations do not happen healthily in the middle of the night or right as you’re approaching bedtime. When both of you are sleepy, your emotional reserves are somewhat depleted, your cognitive reserves are somewhat depleted.

You really want to be sort of at your best, most resilient self. And most high functioning self when you approach difficult conversations. So first of all, time it well, make sure you’re both relatively well slept, not right before bedtime. 

DS: Wow, that’s true. 

WT: Approach the conversation from a “we” standpoint. That is, you know, how can we work together to approach this challenge that is affecting both of us as a couple? Instead of the finger wagging and, you know, you need to go see the doctor to treat your snoring because you’re keeping me up at night. 

DS: Yeah. 

WT: Try to approach it as a we problem and use I statements when possible. So I’d really like to encourage you to go see your doctor because I’m concerned about your snoring not only for your own health, and that’s really important to me. But also because when you’re snoring, I’m not sleeping well. And when I don’t sleep well, I can’t be the partner to you I want to be. So those “I” statements and really focusing on the benefit as a couple.

If a sleep disorder is present, that’s always the first thing to do. So getting your partner to see a doctor if you’re concerned about a sleep disorder is always the first strategy because that is absolutely important. But let’s say a sleep disorder is either ruled out or is being treated, then for couples who are starting to navigate, oh, do we want to try out different sleeping arrangements?

I often see similarly, as you said, that one partner is really gung ho on the idea and the other partner is very resistant. And so, often the way that we work through that resistance is to think about this in a less black and white or extreme way of thinking that this is not all or none. That is, we are going to always now sleep apart versus always sleep together.

Sometimes even just saying, well, here’s an idea. Let’s try sleeping apart on a trial basis. Like, let’s say on the weekends, let’s see if that improves both of our sleep, and let’s see if there are consequences to our intimacy, to our relationship quality. Sometimes that ability to test out the scenario helps to, first of all, give data to both partners.

Like, oh, is it as great as we thought it was going to be, or is it as terrible as we worried it would be? And it also helps that partner who might be really resistant and worried about the implications of, let’s say, sleeping apart, of really testing out, was it so bad? Did those fears I had of us losing all intimacy, were those really realized, or might there have actually been some benefits that I wasn’t even thinking were possible?

DS: When it comes to the intimacy aspect, how do people work around that, right? So someone might feel like they’re gonna, it’s gonna suffer or their relationship’s gonna suffer. One person might feel more abandoned. Like how, how do you recommend that couples find that time for intimacy? 

WT: I think that concern about intimacy and loss of intimacy of sleeping apart is, you know, a really big issue. And it also relates to the stigma we have to sleeping apart. And, you know, one of the reasons why, you know, sleep divorce has caught on so much. We necessarily equate sleeping apart with a loveless and sexless union, right? It doesn’t have to be that way. Of course, you know, from a convenience perspective, you know, when sleeping together, that might offer more opportunity for intimacy, but it’s not necessarily the case.

In fact, in many couples who have busy lives with children and work schedules, you know, the idea of spontaneous sex being the only type of sex for long-term relationships is just not true, right? And scheduled sex is often what many couples in the real world have to do. And it does not take away any of the romance or passion from the activity.

It’s just sometimes what you have to do to make it happen. And so similarly, if a couple is choosing to sleep apart some or all of the time, you may need to be more proactive about finding times to engage in sexual activity or other forms of intimacy that might not occur, you know, in the middle of the night or right before bedtime.

For many couples, it may be right before bedtime before they then go to separate beds, right? So we can, you know, disentangle the sexual act of sleeping together from the literal act of sleeping together for couples who choose to sleep apart. 

DS: How often do you find that couples choose to do the kind of once in a while thing versus every night as often as they can? Do you find that the once in a while thing is a successful method for some people? 

WT: The data suggests that, particularly among young people, this strategy of temporary sleep separations seems to be a sort of a growing phenomenon. And I think it reflects sort of this growing recognition that you can be in a healthy and, you know, intimate relationship, but not completely dependent on each other. That you still are able to keep your independence. And also people have very busy lives. And for some couples who are dealing with, you know, stressful, demanding work schedules, this sort of temporary, you know, sleeping apart strategy seems to work for some and seems to be a growing trend. You know, maybe they sleep apart, you know, on nights before like they’re going to have very stressful or demanding days at work, but then they sleep together on, you know, the less demanding times, including the weekends.

And, you know, some couples are reporting that that sort of temporary situation actually adds to some spice in their relationship. There’s this sort of reunion phase when they sleep together again. So that does seem to be working for some couples. And what I found was really striking about the data was that it was particularly common among younger couples.

DS: That’s really interesting to me that it would be in that demographic. I recommend the once in a while thing as well, when there’s especially a shift work kind of issue. So, being here in New York City, and I mean, I think in many areas of the country and world right now, there’s this hybrid kind of schedule that people are working.

So in New York City, some of my patients will have, their significant other will get up two, three hours earlier on two days a week when they have to go into the city, and then the other days they’re sleeping longer. On those mornings, I’ll sometimes recommend that they sleep separately because it could impact the other person’s sleep. And it’s just, I think it’s cleaner that way for some people. 

WT: Yes. It’s sort of like, why not? I don’t think we benefit from sleep-depriving both partners. Right. And I always want to caveat this. I am not prescribing or suggesting sleeping apart or sleeping together for any couple. In fact, it is such an intimate decision. It always boils down to what works best for that couple. 

DS: Mm-hmm. 

WT: And I often sort of, I think, get mislabeled as like, you know, the doctor, you know, prescribing sleep divorces. That’s, that’s not the case at all. But you’re right, there are many examples where, well, what if we just opened up the possibility for couples to have these conversations to say it’s really okay to be creative about this. Similarly with young families, you know, who have to wake up in the middle of the night to care for an infant or child who wakes up in the, in the middle of the night, I don’t think it’s a benefit for both of you to, you know, be sleep deprived together, you know, as a source of you know, sort of like bonding. If there’s an, if there’s an opportunity for one partner to sleep through the night and, you know, and again, this, there’s reciprocity here, you share that responsibility and then, you know, you take turns.

Well, then that’s sort of helping both you and your partner, you know, avoid becoming too sleep deprived, you know? So I think that there’s, by being creative and being open to strategies such as temporary sleep separations, I think it’s actually freeing couples to do creative problem solving that’s going to be the healthiest for the relationship.

DS: I will never forget this. When I was in training on internship, one of my internship supervisors and I got into a debate because I was still, I was very interested in sleep medicine even back then, and I was trying to make a case for people. sleeping apart at times to help benefit the relationship.

Granted, we didn’t have the research that you have now, but I was trying to make that case. And I remember that a lot of the psychology faculty at that time would debate with me that, well, it’s worse for the relationship. And I think psychologists of all people really still put that stigma on people at times.

Do you find that that’s changing in the field of psychology? Or are you still kind of having to fight against that at times? 

WT: Well, as we both know, in both general psychology training and, frankly, in medical school as well, trainees get woefully little sleep medicine training, and we’re hoping there’s some policy changes coming to change that.

So it is true that just even a basic understanding of sleep is sort of woefully lacking in a lot of psychological and medical training, and so that’s a problem. And so a lot of the thinking around sleep from sort of a traditional psychologist perspective is often really not science-based, and you know, sometimes there’s some sort of Freudian and analytical views about the bed and the marital bed, and there’s all that stigma, and again, that’s not science- based.

I think part of the good news of topics such as sleep divorce, as much as we don’t like the term, being more mainstream and readily discussed, that sort of stigma is starting to wane, and I think it’s also pervading into general psychology practice. And, I know lots of general clinicians who are really aware of the importance of sleep for the mental health and physical health and relationship health of their clients.

And also recognizing this idea that all couples, you know, must sleep together in the same bed, and that’s the only strategy, including if neither partner is sleeping well. That antiquated idea is also starting to dissipate, and I think that’s again because of just sort of increased awareness and knowledge that, wow, there’s just not one size sleeping strategy for all couples.

DS: What factors should couples really take into account when they’re thinking of whether this would be the right move for them, and what would be some things that they might want to think about trying that would help them figure out if it’s right for them? 

WT: There’s really a lot of different creative strategies couples can try, and it really starts with, well, what’s the root of the problem? What’s the nature of the problem? Because the solution is going to depend on what the problem is. Separate beds in the same room. work for many couples. For instance, if one partner tosses and turns and, you know, thrashes and kicks the other partner, separate beds might solve that problem. Or for instance, the Scandinavian method, which is also becoming increasingly talked about and popular, which is basically two twin beds put together equals a king.

So it gives the impression of a shared bed, but separate sleeping space. But those types of strategies aren’t going to solve the problem, for instance, of snoring that’s keeping the other partner up at night. That’s where separate bedrooms might come into play. 

When you focus first on, okay, what’s the nature of the problem? You also want to first rule out, is there a sleep disorder at play? Because that’s got to be the priority. These sleep issues and partnered sleep issues that come up could be the result of a sleep disorder that’s much more than a nuisance. This could be a sign that your partner has a serious health condition.

Sleep apnea and insomnia are both significant health conditions for which we have effective treatments. So the first strategy is always to address the sleep problem, if that exists, and then focus on the strategies that are going to help your partnership sort of manage the co-sleep, if you choose to do so, or considering various sleep separations, whether it be the separate beds, including individualized bedding for some couples, or separate bedrooms, either on a temporary or more permanent basis.

DS: So it sounds like, you know, there’s all these different levels that we can go with. Are we changing the bed? Are we changing the bedding? Moving to temperature, right? That’s other things that we can try. And there’s all these great tech hacks that we can do now. And then moving to maybe separate beds and then separate rooms if need be.

What if someone, I mean, I just think about having worked at Montefiore for many years I had so many patients that lived in either one-bedrooms or studio apartments. Do you have any tricks for something like that? Or is it sometimes you just have to work with what you’ve got. 

WT: That is a challenge And of course you do always have to work with what you got Yeah, there’s historical relevance too, because sleeping apart used to be de rigueur right, you know, think about the Victorian era. 

DS: Huh!

WT: People who could afford to sleep apart did. It was considered sort of the socially desirable thing to do. It was considered more hygienic, but again, you only have the option to sleep apart if you had the resources to do so. 

And honestly, the same thing applies today. If you’re in a one-bedroom apartment, obviously your sleeping solutions, you have some physical limitations. For those couples, it’s also important to think about other practical strategies.

Earplugs, if noise is the big interrupter. Eye masks. If you sleep with a snorer, again, hopefully the snoring is being treated if it’s sleep apnea. But you know, for some couples, a partner who sleeps with a snorer, the partner may try to go to sleep before the snoring partner so that he or she can get into a deeper stage of sleep and be less disrupted by the snorer when they come to bed.

And as you said, we also now have the luxury of all these products out there, some of which are, can be very effective that really allow for individualized sleep experiences. Let’s say, you know, different sides of the bed with different temperature preferences, different sort of mattress firmness levels, mattresses that try to reduce displacement between each partner.

These things can also sort of benefit couples who, you know, may still need to share a bed either by choice or because of limited space options. 

DS: And the other thing that I try to stress is that sometimes the person who might be making a little bit of noise or whatever it might be, maybe the person who’s bothered by it might have some insomnia going on and be looking for what we call in our field, sleep threats.

So they might wake up for other reasons, but then be like, oh my gosh, I hear this. I hear that they’re doing this. It’s annoying me. Just their breathing is annoying me. Sometimes it’s actually just working on the insomnia for the other person too. So it’s not just a one-sided thing sometimes too. 

WT: You are so right, Shelby, and in fact, that’s also why I often, in my clinic, if a couple comes to me and, you know, where one partner is really, you know, sleeping terribly, and they basically want me to say, you guys can have a sleep divorce. 

DS: Yeah. 

WT: They’re looking for permission from me. And the other partner is really resistant. One of the greatest strategies for sort of doing a trial period of let’s just try this out, because it’s often that belief, from an individual who actually has insomnia, it’s all about my partner. 

DS: Yeah. 

WT: And actually by experimenting and saying, oh, so on a trial basis, if you slept apart from your partner, did you have perfect sleep? Did you fall asleep quickly and stay asleep deeply and sleep through the night? That’s rarely the case. 

That’s often where we can say, aha, you actually have underlying insomnia symptoms, which is just limiting your ability to get to the depth of sleep. And your threshold for being awakened in the night is so low that every little thing your partner does or frankly anything in the environment is going to wake you up, but you’re just attributing it to your partner.

And so often that’s a great way to identify the underlying source of the problem, which is actually not the partner, it’s the insomnia. And great news is we have great behavioral treatments for that. 

DS: Right? And just gathering the evidence is really important so we can see where we need to go. One of the biggest things that I think I hear when I actually do work with people and they decide to sleep apart is they’re so worried when people come to visit, right? What are my parents going to say? What are my kids going to say? So they’re, they’re worried about the stigma that other people are going to kind of have against it. So what do you say in those situations? 

WT: I do hope that as there’s more conversation about this, as the topic becomes sort of more mainstream, and that that stigma will start to, will continue to wane, really. And I do think there are signs of that. But it is a concern for, you know, many couples. 

That’s where I think for some couples, the Scandinavian method that I talked about, Is becoming sort of increasingly popular because again, you could have the appearance of a shared bed, because again, the Scandinavian method is two twin beds put together. So you can have individualized beds, individualized bedding, let’s say, you know, for couples who have different temperature preferences. 

DS: Yeah. 

WT: Or lots of movement at night. But then there’s one common comforter overlay, so it gives the appearance of a shared bed. So that’s one way. 

I also say to couples, wait a second, of course we don’t like to be judged and stigma doesn’t feel good. But we are talking about arguably, like the most important health behavior and it occupies a major portion of our lives and frankly our coupled existence as well. We spend about a third of our lives asleep and whether we’re doing that with our partner or not, this is a very intimate decision and we don’t need others dictating or judging how we engage in that critically important health behavior.

It’s about what works for you and your partner. So, you know, having strategies, if you need to have, sort of, a line to, you know, give your children or family members who are nosy, you know, say, this is the strategy that lets us be better partners because our relationship is that important to us. 

DS: And you’re teaching positive health behaviors to your children as well, and how to work out problems in a relationship necessarily, of how you can both feel like you’re more connected and healthier with your sleep overall. I think it’s a great model to just teach your kids. 

WT: Absolutely. And again, tying the connection between, you know how you feel when you haven’t slept well, you could be irritable and cranky. Well, I feel that way too. And I don’t want to do that with your father, you know? I think sort of making that connection that how we sleep at night has a real impact on how we treat the people we love, and if this is the strategy that you’re going to move towards, it’s because you care that much about the relationship. 

So again, it’s a pro-relationship activity rather than something damning about the relationship. And I think that’s, again, something really valuable to share with children or others, not that it’s any of their business.

DS: As we mentioned earlier, you continue to do incredible work in the fields of medicine, education, public speaking, but you’re also an accomplished author. Your book, Sharing the Covers, Every Couple’s Guide to Better Sleep, is a must-read for every couple out there. I have it right over there in my office, right here.

I really do love this book, so can you tell our listeners who might not be familiar with it a little bit more about the book and how it came about? 

WT: Well, thank you so much for those kind words, and yes, of course. Sharing the Covers is really a culmination of the past 20 years of research that I’ve done and that the field has done because the idea of couples in sleep and the focus on couples in sleep has really blossomed over the past 20 years.

When I started, like I said, I definitely felt a little bit alone in this field and a bit of an imposter, but the field has really grown tremendously and now there’s really elegant, interesting data showing just how nuanced and bi-directional the association is between how we sleep at night and how we behave in our relationships during the day and how that bi-directional association can either create a vicious cycle with poor sleep, begetting poor relationships and so on, or even a virtuous one with healthy sleep, leading to, you know, better relationship behaviors, more closeness in the relationship, leading to better sleep and so on.

And I also include examples from my work with real couples and my clinical work. I kind of use some stories. And then give tips for couples of how to navigate the many challenges that couples face throughout their couple course. Challenges that couples face in the early stages when, for instance, you have young children at play, to the later stages of relationships when hormones are changing, when sleep problems become more prevalent, when other medical issues can also interfere with sleep. How do couples sort of navigate those issues? 

It’s really a combination of both the science base to understand what’s actually going on when we think about the coupled nature of sleep. And then also giving, sort of evidence based strategies for couples to navigate these topics. 

DS: Dr. Wendy, for our couples out there, what’s something that they can maybe even do today if they’re struggling with sleep with their bed partner or getting their best sleep when they have someone, even once in a while, in their room?

WT: My number one tip, really regardless of whether you’re happily sleeping together or happily sleeping apart or considering, you know, one or the other, is to really start to focus on a couple’s wind-down routine. Regardless of your sleeping arrangement. I think this is something that’s becoming increasingly neglected among couples. And it’s really a critical, precious time that couples really should try to preserve. That nighttime routine before going to bed, and again, whatever your sleeping arrangement may be. Because that night time spent together before either of you fall asleep is often the one quiet time where you and your partner can, if you take advantage of it, just be together without the normal chaos of the day, just to be together, to destress, unwind, and connect.

But too often these days, we’re each individually on our phones or our tablets, and we’re really neglecting that critical time together. 

DS: Yeah. 

WT: So here’s a quick strategy that couples can do together to help them relax together and connect. It’s called the High Low Gratitude Technique. First you start with a high, something good that happened to you during the day, something that you’re proud about. Then something, maybe a low that you’re not so happy that happened during the day, that you were disappointed about.

You take turns, and then you each pay the other a compliment. I’m grateful for you helping with the kids today, doing the carpool run in the afternoon, or for bringing me coffee in the morning. Some little bit of gratitude or a compliment. So something good, something not so good, and a compliment to your partner. It’s quick. It’s a great way to connect with your partner, to end on a good note, whether you choose to sleep together or apart. 

DS: I absolutely love that. That’s a great one, because like you said, so many people are just on their phones zoning out and they think that being together while on their phones zoning out is connection. 

WT: And connection is so important, not just for our relationships, but also for our sleep and our overall health and well being. So we really want to make that a sacred time. 

DS: Dr. Wendy Troxel. Thank you so much for joining us. I have learned a lot. I know that the listeners have learned tons. This has been an absolute delight. So thank you very much. 

WT: Thank you. It’s been an absolute pleasure for me as well. 

DS: Thanks for listening to Sleep Talking with Dr. Shelby, a Sleepopolis original podcast. If you’re not routinely getting a great night’s sleep, remember to follow and subscribe for more Sleep Talking wherever you get your podcasts. And for even more sleep tips, visit sleepopolis.com and my Instagram page @sleepdocshelby. 

Today’s episode was produced and edited by Freddie Beckley. Our head of content is Alanna Nuñez, and I’m Dr. Shelby Harris. Until next time, sleep well.