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Dear Em & Lo,

I have an awesome boyfriend and we have extremely good sex. We even have simultaneous orgasms 75 percent of the time. I love him, he loves me. I couldn't be happier.

My problem is this: I cannot fall asleep when we're together. We've tried having sleepovers at his place and my place. We've tried switching what side of the bed we sleep on. I will be up all night long, and not in the happy fun way. One of the main problems is he's a cuddler. I know, most men don't like to cuddle. Well, not this one. And he grips me in a vice grip as he sleeps without even realizing it, not to mention, takes up more than half my double bed. He's not a huge guy, but he's no shorty either. He snores, but not rhythmically, and only sporadically. He also twitches and moves around when he dreams, sometimes almost sleep talking. Let's just say, he's not a quiet sleeper.

I think I could get used to most of that, but when I try to wake him up and get him to move over so I'm not falling off the bed or to stop squeezing me in his sleep, he pouts. During the day time, its fine, he says he doesn't care and I should just shove him over. But he turns into a hurt puppy dog when I wake him up and he's still drowsy and then I feel like a terrible person for not wanting him touching me while I try to sail off to dream land. But honestly, I think part of my problem is I really prefer to sleep alone, which I also feel kind of guilty for. Is there any way I can relax when he stays over. I hate to resort to a prescription for sleeping pills.

--Wide Awake


Damn! Our one-word advice was going to be: Ambien. Either that, or consider developing a late-night drinking problem. Oh well, guess you're not going to let us sleepwalk through this one.

If he truly does all the things you say he does in his sleep, then no wonder you want to sleep alone! Anyone would. And you shouldn't feel guilty about it. Studies show women have a harder time sleeping, especially with a mate, than men. And if you don't get enough good sleep, then it's going to affect your physical and emotional health, which will in turn affect your relationship, and ultimately your sex life. (Of course, some would say you should be willing to forgo sleep, food AND shelter for simultaneous orgasms guaranteed 75 percent of the time!)

You've got to explain to him gently and nicely (not in an "it's all your fault" kind of way -- after all, you're the light sleeper) that as much as you'd love to cuddle and sleep with him every night, the reality is that you're not sleeping well at all and it's affecting your health, and you're worried it will eventually start to affect your relationship with him. And your sex life. (That should wake him up, if he isn't already.) Therefore, you've got to make some changes and you really hope he'll get on board with the following efforts:
  • Cuddling has to be a post-sex and pre-sleep activity only. When it's time to sleep, he's got to understand and accept (i.e. get it in his subconscious) that there's no touching when you two turn over and go night-night. Of course, you can certainly be nice and cuddle him to sleep, but once you want to sleep, you've got to be firm: don't take his half-asleep pouting personally and do what you have to to get him on his side of the bed. Use both your feet if you have to!
  • You won't be sleeping over at his place anymore, unless he's cool with you moving to an air mattress or pull-out bed in another room once he's fallen asleep OR he's willing to change his bedroom situation like you are going to...
  • It's a bummer, because it costs money, but you absolutely need to get yourself a bigger bed. (Tossing-turning-snoring boyfriend or not, if you're an adult with a regular sleepover partner then it's nice to have something bigger than a double.) And it sounds like the bigger the better. Even if he still pushes you to one side, at least you could hop over him (or walk around) and find refuge on the other side. Or put a wall of pillows between you. If you've got the disposable income (we know during these times it's unlikely, but...), you could invest in a Tempurpedic (it's got a 20-year warranty), which is great at limiting motion transfer (remember the commercials with the lady jumping on one side and the glass of red wine on the other not tipping over?), as well as encouraging more sound, less restless sleep. You could even do what the hotels do: get two twins on their own frames with wheels (with brakes) and push them together. You'd use twin fitted sheets on each mattress, but could make the bed with a king bed spread (you'll just have to pick one side for schtupping). Once he falls asleep, pull your twin a few inches away from his to hopefully create a big enough chasm to keep him on his twin.
  • Get ear plugs for yourself and/or try adding some white noise (a fan, or a white noise machine) to help muffle his snorts and mumbling.
  • Have him take measures to stop or at least reduce his nocturnal noise-making. WebMD recommends a few natural remedies: he sleeps on his side, sleeps on an incline, loses weight (if necessary), avoids alcohol and sedatives, inhales steam before bed, and/or tries nasal strips.  
Good luck, good night and sleep tight,

Em & Lo


7 Comments

Alexis said:

Yes, yes, new bed, yes. A king-size Sleep Number Bed saved my relationship, personal health and sanity. We both sleep waaaay deeper (less snoring, rolling over, moving in general) and there's plenty of room for me to escape from Octopus Arms. Plus, I like a much softer mattress so he prefers his firm side anyway.

25/65

MK said:

I have been having the exact same problem! I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one with a death-grip sleeping partner. I'll definitely be trying a few of your suggestions. Thanks Em and Lo!

Valerie said:

Well, I've been married 11 years and we sleep separately. I cannot abide the snoring, and he cannot handle my chronic insomnia. It works fine... if all else fails.

Christina said:

Sleeping in the same bed is not compulsory - only socially normative in modern Western cultures. I sleep in a separate ROOM from my partner of four years, and it works pretty well for both of us (he's a morning person and an extremely restless sleeper, I'm a night owl and an incredibly light sleeper). But he feels really embarrassed about other people knowing what our sleeping arrangements are - as if it somehow reflects on the state of our relationship. I think it reflects our ability to forge our own kind of relationship in the face of restrictive and unquestioned social norms - but I may be in the minority there!

Johnny said:

I am a cuddler too. Physical contact of some sort (not necessarily a greco-roman wrestling hold) helps me doze off.

But pouting like a sad puppy? What a pussy. Don't let that make you feel bad.

It really turns me off when girls do that, and I tell them so, and they usually knock it off. I suggest you do the same.

Kate said:

My husband and I recently switched from a double to a king because he was disturbing my sleep (he sleeps very deeply but moves around a lot). I had managed for more than a year but once I got pregnant this summer I became an even lighter sleeper and some nights was resorting to moving to the couch. The difference has been remarkable! Before we switched he was waking me 2-3 (or more) times in a night; now I sleep straight through his contortions and odd noises. Also, instead of the tiny slice of bed I used to wind up with I now have a full half of the bed. Even on his most restless nights my husband barely inches onto my side.

FWIW we got a king sized memory foam mattress (I think it's a Serta) at overstock.com for about $650. Still not cheap but way less than retail on a Tempurpedic and not much more than a standard king would run you.

said:

Omg where would I be without Mack's silicone earplugs.

We used to sleep in separate rooms (how I miss it) but small homes (one bedroom's) and now a kid sharing space have forced us together. Thank goodness for'em.

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Em & Lo, more formally known as Emma Taylor and Lorelei Sharkey, are the self-proclaimed Emily Posts of the modern bedroom.

Dr. Kate is an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City.

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