Married Couples Part Beds To Keep Peace

Studies confirm that Americans are not getting enough sleep — and that can increase stress and make you less productive at work. The problem can often be that people share a bed with a significant other who snores.

The answer for many couples may be separate bedrooms. Instead of being the sign of a failed marriage, it may be the salvation.

Everything about Betty and Bob Brennan's two decades of marriage seemed perfect until the lights went out. She's an insomniac while he is a light sleeper who snores.

"I was at the point where it was like 'Get out or, you know, I've got to get out,' " Betty Brennan said. "And sometimes I'd grab my pillow and I'd slam the door on the way out and it was awful."

She's tried other things in the past such as holding his nose, but that didn't work. Bob says there is no way he will get surgery. He says a friend of his underwent the painful medical procedure, which helped the snoring, but the marriage still fell apart.
Ironically, what they're doing is what a lot of TV couples did in the 1950s. In "I Love Lucy," "Leave It to Beaver" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show," couples slept in separate beds in order to satisfy network censors. But maybe they were 50 years ahead of their time.

Betty found herself angry while Bob was tired and irritable — not what you want to be when you're the chief of police in Atherton, Calif. To keep the peace in his home, the chief and his wife decided to part beds after 20 years.

"When we first got married, I couldn't sleep unless he was in the bed," Betty said. "And he used to always at least have a hand on my hip or somewhere on my hip or somewhere on my back."

Now they are more comfortable and both are sleeping better than ever. At the police station, many noticed that Bob is more relaxed. Now police lt. Glenn Nielsen says separate bedrooms could help his marriage as well.

"We have a spare bedroom that would work just perfect for this," he said.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 53 percent of adults say they have relationship problems because of their or their partner's sleep disorder.

And the housing industry seems ready to capitalize on this trend. One survey predicts by the year 2015, more than 60 percent of custom homes will have dual master bedrooms like one home under construction in St. Louis. The builder says they can be used for visiting in-laws, returning children and friends, and — in growing numbers — snoring spouses.

"Not that they're not happily married," said Dennis Hayden who is building these homes. "It's that I helps them actually survive their marriage. It gives the spouses somewhere to escape to if they're snoring."

But many who seek separate bedrooms still face the stigma.

"If the individuals and a couple are not in the same bed, people are immediately suspicious that the relationship has gone awry, that there's a problem," said John Elia, a health education Professor, San Francisco State University.

But the Brennans do spend some bed-time together. She stays under the covers to get warm and he stays on top to keep cool. But when the lights go out, it's time for Bob to go. For the Brennans, there is no greater love than a good night's sleep — alone.