Sharing a bed with someone may seem like the simplest of activities, but as a new study shows, it is a “complicated, changing and often challenging experience”.
University of Minnesota family social science professor Paul Rosenblatt, who explores the art of sleeping with a partner in a new book titled Two in a Bed: The Social System of Couple Bed Sharing, says that the activity is not as simple as people make it out to be.
"Sharing a bed is a complicated, changing and often a challenging experience and no one had written about it," he said.
As a part of the research for his book, Rosenblatt interviewed 42 bed-sharing couples, and examined what it means to share a bed with someone else, how it affects the couple's relationship, how the relationship affects the bed sharing and how couples dealt with the complexities of sharing a bed.
He found that for most couples, their time chatting in bed is the most time they have to talk with each other on a daily basis and that talk can be crucially important to their relationship.
"Lots of couples say that if they can both stay awake, they talk for a few minutes each night. If couples don't have this time in bed, then they're in trouble," Rosenblatt said.
"Many of the couples interviewed said they would get a better night's sleep apart, but they don't want to sleep apart because of the intimacy of sharing a bed, the security and the sense of belonging together," he added.
Sharing a bed, he found, does not come naturally, and that people who have never done so before have to learn how to do it.
"Some people have spent years sprawled out across the bed or wrapped up in a blanket and suddenly they have to adjust to sleeping with someone. As life changes, people have to learn how to sleep together and not just once, but again and again," Rosenblatt said.
The research also found that couples who sleep together not only sometimes literally save each other lives, but some, especially women, feel a sense of security with their partner sleeping next to them.
"They feel that their partner will be an ally for them in facing an intruder. Some men joke they don't think they would be any help, just another victim, but others feel protective, tough, and up to the job," he said.
While many books on sleep offer advice to individuals on how to sleep well, this is the first of its kind that delves into the connections between individual sleep and couple bed sharing.