This column is not about sex.
If you're a parent -- and if you're reading this you probably are -- you already know most of the important stuff about sex.
And this column is definitely not about how to meet and have sex with someone new. You're on your own for that one. You'll get no help from me.
This column is about sleep. Plain old boring sleep. A snooze-fest. Specifically, it's about how to sleep with someone again after you've spent a lot of time not sleeping with him or her.
Sex is easy. Sleep is hard.
Also. There is practically nothing online about how to sleep with someone. When you Google that, you very quickly find yourself in the Internet's red light district.
And ... eww. Seriously. Don't Google that. Trust me.
Throughout my parenting journey, there have consistently been two recurring occasions when sleep becomes nearly all that I think about:
- When there's a newborn in the house.
- Just after a my husband comes home from a deployment or other long separation.
This column is also not about how to get more sleep when there's a newborn in the house. There are thousands of articles and books on that subject and (spoiler alert) none of them work. You just have to endure those times.
But cuddling up with the love of your life for a solid eight hours should be easy, pleasant and restful. It should be great. And yet for Must-Have Parents, it often isn't. Besides, you can't just endure something that doesn't seem to have an end date.
During our long separations, my husband and I, out of necessity, get used to being alone in bed. He in his bed, me in our bed. By the time he gets home, we're both quite good at sleeping alone.
Several studies, like this one, have been done on how deployments affect service members' sleep habits, but they tend to focus on the effects of stress, irregular schedules and combat exposure on sleep quality. There's content like this that helps service members adjust to changing sleep cycles.
There have even been studies like this one that look at the effect of deployments on spouses, but these tend to focus on role changes, depression and stress.
But there's precious little -- not that I can find, anyway -- that tells people how to lie in the same bed, side-by-side, and sleep through the night without waking each other up multiple times after they've spent weeks or months sleeping by themselves.
People just sleep differently. Some are tossers and turners, and some barely move. Some put off a lot of body heat and like to have a fan blowing. Others are always cold and sleep best under piles of blankets. Some need a room to be absolutely void of light, others feel more comfortable with a night light. Some like white noise, some like no noise.
You see where I'm going?
When you sleep with the same person every night, their quirks stop bothering you. But when one person travels frequently, and especially if they stay gone for long periods of time, neither of you ever really gets a chance to adjust.
So what can you do?
For starters, get a big bed. You're less likely to wake each other up if you've got room to spread out. A customizable mattress, like the Sleep Number, might also help if one of you prefers a firm mattress and the other like to disappear into a cloud of down. Memory foam is also great because it molds to each person's body.
For temperature differences, you could compromise by placing a small fan that blows mostly on the person who tends to get hot. The cold person could sleep under a doubled up blanket.
Lighting is a little trickier, but if it comes down to it the light sensitive person could take a lesson from night shift workers and wear an eye mask to bed.
And if one of you snores, rule out any medical reasons that might be causing the snoring, and then add BreatheRight strips to your shopping list. They really do work.
Finally, if you think your sleeping problems might be indicative of bigger relationship problems, take at look at what your sleeping habits say about your relationship.
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