Good News: You Don’t Have to Sleep With Your Spouse
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Good News: You Don’t Have to Sleep With Your Spouse

Therapists and sleep scientists say it’s OK for couples to sleep apart, a reversal of a long-held marriage tenet

By ELIZABETH BERNSTEIN
Mon, Dec 18, 2023 8:58amGrey Clock 3 min

Ever tried to get a good night’s sleep with your partner snoring or tossing around restlessly next to you?

You’re gonna like this: Therapists and sleep scientists say it’s OK for couples to sleep apart as a growing body of research shows the striking importance of sleep. It’s a reversal from the long-held marriage tenet that once partners move to separate beds, the romance is dead.

Sleep is “essential for a healthy body, mind and relationship,” says Wendy Troxel, clinical psychologist, sleep scientist at Rand and author of a book on couples sleeping. “It’s important to prioritise it.”

Therapists have a caveat. If you and your partner do move to separate beds, you need to find a way to continue to be intimate, both emotionally and physically. Co-sleeping provides important benefits for a couple, such as emotional closeness and opportunities for cuddling, sex and conversation. Partners who sleep well together should stick with it.

In the beginning of their marriage, Mark and Paula White shared the same bed. But neither of them was getting a good night’s rest. Paula is a night owl who keeps the TV on, even when she’s asleep. Mark keeps a fan running at the foot of the bed and happily wakes up at 3 a.m.

Once, he flipped over in his sleep and accidentally punched her in the face. Another time, his snoring and “garlicky breath” made her snap and scream: “I can’t breathe! You’re taking my air!”

That was 32 years ago. Since then, the Whites have mostly slept in separate rooms, even choosing separate beds on vacation.

“We’re better people and we have a better relationship because we get better sleep,” says Paula, 60, a business owner in New Albany, Ohio.

When we sleep well, we stave off a host of physical- and mental-health problems, such as diabetes, hypertension and depression. Our relationships improve, because we’re less irritable, less frustrated, and better at communication and problem-solving. When we’re cranky, we tend to take it out on the person closest to us.

Better sleep can boost our sex lives, too. One of the main reasons couples stop having sex is because they’re too damn exhausted.

“This is why couples say one of their most satisfying sexual experiences is when they go on vacation,” says Sari Cooper, a certified sex and couples therapist in New York. “They get time to rest.”

Here’s how psychologists suggest you can successfully sleep apart.

Have a conversation

Don’t stomp off out of bed. It could make your partner feel rejected. Both people need to be OK with the arrangement for it to work.

Choose a time when you are both well-rested. Don’t talk about this in the bedroom.

Ask your partner: Are you sleeping OK? Explain that you want both of you to sleep well. Be reassuring that this is about sleep and not attraction.

Don’t blame. Use “I” instead of “you.” Try: “I get cold at night,” not “you are a blanket hog.”

Keep it targeted. This isn’t the time to talk about everything wrong in your relationship. “Stay focused on how you can be a better partner if you are better slept,” Rand’s Troxel says.

Try it part-time

This doesn’t have to be a full-time arrangement. You can sleep apart during the workweek, or take a break when one person is in a bout of insomnia.

This temporary approach is especially helpful when one partner wants to sleep apart and one doesn’t, Troxel says.

Plan regular intimacy dates

When you sleep in separate beds, there are fewer opportunities for spontaneous sex or even just snuggling. “You need to be intentional about creating the seduction, flirtation and planning to make it happen,” says Cooper, the sex therapist.

Pick a day when you know you will be most relaxed and plan to go to bed an hour earlier. (You’ll want energy!) Build the anticipation beforehand. Send a flirty text or leave a note on your partner’s bed.

And remember: Not all intimacy has to be sexual.

Get in bed together for a little bit each night

Cuddle. Watch a movie. Engage in pillow talk. Then say good night and head off to your separate beds.

“You can shoot for the best of both worlds: time awake in bed together and good sleep,” says Zlatan Krizan, a certified sleep scientist and professor of psychology at Iowa State University.

The Whites, who have been married 33 years, sometimes watch a movie in bed and snuggle. When they want to be intimate, they plan a date night or simply visit each other’s bedroom. Sometimes Paula tells her husband, “I’ll leave the red light on for you tonight.” Both spouses say sex is more pleasurable now because they aren’t so tired and tense.

They have one bedtime ritual they never skip, though. They go upstairs together, kneel on each side of Paula’s bed, and say their prayers. Then they kiss good night and head off to their own rooms.

“Now, when we’re together, we know it’s going to be quality time,” Mark, 61, says.



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Only 5% of U.S. Foundations Invest for Impact, Study Finds
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Few of the U.S.’s philanthropic foundations invest their endowment assets—totalling an estimated US$1.1 trillion—to create positive social and environmental change in addition to high returns, potentially limiting or even counteracting the good such organisations do.

Exactly how few isn’t precisely known. But Bridgespan Social Impact, a subsidiary of the New York-based Bridgespan Group along with the Capricorn Investment Group, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based investment firm founded by Jeff Skoll , the first president of eBay, and the Skoll Foundation, also in Palo Alto, attempted to “get the conservation started,” with a study of 65 foundations with a total of about US$89 billion in assets, according to Mandira Reddy, director at Capricorn Investment Group.

The top-line conclusion: 5% of the primarily U.S.-based foundations surveyed invest their assets for impact. Most surprising is that 92% of these organisations, which have assets ranging from US$11 million to US$16 billion, are active members of impact investing groups, such as the Global Impact Investing Network and Mission Investors Exchange.

“If there’s any pool of capital that is best suited for impact investing, it would be this pool of capital along with family office money,” Reddy says.

The study was also conducted “to draw attention to the opportunity,” she said.

“We want to redefine what philanthropy can achieve. There is massive potential here just given the scale of capital.”

Foundations are required by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service to grant 5% of their assets each year to charity; in practice they have granted slightly more in the last 10 years—an average of 7% of their assets, according to Delaware-based FoundationMark, which tracks the investment performance of about 97% of all foundation assets.

The remaining assets of these foundations are invested with the intention of earning the “highest-possible risk-adjusted financial returns,” the report said. Those investments allow these organizations to grant funds often in perpetuity.

Capricorn and Bridgespan argue that more foundations, however, need to “align their capital with their missions,” and that they can do so while still achieving high returns.

“Why wait to distribute resources far into the future when there are numerous urgent issues facing the planet and communities today,” argue the authors of a report on the research, which is titled, “Can Foundation Endowments Achieve Greater Impact.”

The fact most of the foundations surveyed are very familiar with impact investing and yet haven’t taken the leap “highlights the persistently untapped opportunity,” the report said. It details some of the barriers foundations can face in shifting to impact, and how and why to overcome them.

Hurdles to making a shift can include “beginner’s dilemma”—simply not knowing where to start—and a misperception on the part of large foundations that impact investing is “too niche,” offering opportunities that are too small for the amount of capital they need to allocate. Other foundations are too stretched and don’t have the resources to add capabilities for making impact investments, the report said.

One of the biggest concerns is financial performance. Some foundation leaders, for instance, worry impact investments lead to so-called concessionary returns, where a market rate of return is sacrificed to achieve a social or environmental benefit. Those investments exist, but there are also plenty of options that offer financial returns.

The authors make a case for foundations to “go big,” into impact to realize the best outcomes, and to take a portfolio approach, meaning integrating impact principles into how they approach all investments. To make this happen, foundations need to incorporate impact into their investment policy statements, which determine how they allocate assets.

It will be difficult for foundations that want to shift their assets to impact to pull out of investments such as private-equity or venture-capital funds that can have holdings periods of a decade. But with a policy statement in place, a foundation’s investment team can reinvest this long-term capital once it is returned into impact investing options, she says.

“The transition doesn’t happen overnight,” Reddy says. “Even if there is a commitment for an established foundation that is already fully invested, it takes several years to get there.”

The Skoll Foundation, established in 1999, revised its investment policy statement in 2006 to incorporate impact. According to the report, the foundation initially divested of investments that were not in sync with its values, and then gradually, working with Capricorn Investment, began exploring impact opportunities mostly in early-stage companies developing solutions to climate change.

“As the team gained more knowledge and experience in this work, and as more investment opportunities arose, the impact-aligned portfolio expanded across different asset classes, issue areas, and fund managers,” the report said.

As of 2022, 70% of the Skoll Foundation’s assets are in impact investments addressing climate change, inclusive capitalism, health and wellness, and sustainable markets.

Capricorn, which manages US$9 billion for foundations and institutional investors through impact investments, constructs portfolios across asset classes. In private markets, this can include venture, private equity, private credit, real estate, and infrastructure. There are also impact options in the public markets, in both stocks and bonds.

“Across the spectrum there are opportunities available now to do this in an authentic manner while preserving financial goals,” Reddy says.

Of the foundations surveyed, about 15, including Skoll, have 50% or more of their assets invested for impact. Others include the Lora & Martin Kelley Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Russell Family Foundation, and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.

Though not part of the study, the California Endowment just announced it was going “all in” on impact. The organisation has US$4 billion in assets under management, which likely makes it the largest foundation to undergo the shift, according to Mission Investors Exchange.

Although the researchers looked at a fairly small sample set of foundations, Reddy says it provides data “that is indicative of what the foundation universe” might look like.

“We cannot tell foundations how to invest and that’s not the intent, but we do want to spread the message that it is quite possible to align their assets to impact,” she says. “The idea is that this becomes a boardroom conversation.”

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