Dear Dr. Gail: I am about to marry the man of my dreams. I am extremely happy and have no doubts this is the man I want to spend my life with. We have no problems in the bedroom when it comes to sex, but when it comes to sleep I can barely be in the same ZIP code with him!
I am the world's lightest sleeper and he is the world's loudest snorer. When we go camping we must take separate tents, snore aids, industrial-strength earplugs, and sleeping pills. Even then it is a problem.
Aside from snoring, he takes up the whole bed and steals the covers.
My friends tell me that, over time, our inability to sleep in the same bed will cause problems in our sex life and relationship. I am terrified that we will have to rent separate hotel rooms on the honeymoon! Is there any way for us to be as close at night as we are during the day?
Dear Suffering from Snoring: I think your problem can be solved, or at least greatly alleviated. There have been numerous articles written lately about couples having separate bedrooms because of sleep problems. This can work in some marriages, though I would not recommend doing so. While some people function better with their own sleeping space and find it much more comfortable not to have someone else in their bed, it makes keeping the intimate connection much more challenging.
Here I will add a caution: Some couples claim they have sleeping issues when, in fact, they have a bad sex life. Sleeping in separate rooms, supposedly because a spouse snores, could really mean the relationship is troubled in other ways. Distancing yourself this way could easily turn you into roommates. Night time is a time when couples can be alone with each other, talk about intimate topics and have intimate physical contact.
But it doesn’t sound as though this is the case for you. Some couples truly do struggle with uncomfortable sleeping and snoring issues. I suggest you try every solution before you resort to separate bedrooms.
My suggestions include additional noise-blocking items, such as a white noise machine. There are plenty of products on the market worth trying, including nasal strips or sprays, mouth appliances, and clothing that prevents people from sleeping on their backs.
Most importantly, your fiance could have a medical condition — allergies, an adenoid problem or sleep apnea (which can be dangerous if undiagnosed.) He should be evaluated by an otorhinolaryngologist to rule out such a condition. There is a relatively new and quick medical procedure — the pillar implant procedure, which involves the palate tissue — that may alleviate snoring with little downside.
Sleep, as you know, is essential. Lack of sleep leads to irritability, accidents, depression and difficulty functioning — and these can take their own toll on a relationship! Sleep is more important than sex, in terms of being a functional human being. So I don’t want to discount the importance of a good night’s sleep, or to understate the misery of being constantly exhausted. In fact, I suspect there are many cases where separate beds strengthen a relationship.
Your friends are being alarmist. While it is good to go into a marriage with your eyes open about potential hurdles, snoring issues do not doom an otherwise strong marriage. There is no one way to define a happy, healthy marriage. Some happily married couples do sleep in separate bedrooms.
Still, there are other compromises to try before you opt for separate rooms. You can have a very large bed but separate bedding, so your fiance can’t swipe the covers. You can share the bed until your fiance falls asleep, and then steal off to your own bed. You can go to bed first, so you are asleep by the time he arrives in bed, with less chance of waking you. You can share a bed only on weekends. The point is to try various ideas until you find something that works for you both.
As for the honeymoon, if you rent a hotel room arranged as a suite, you will have the option of the same bed or separate beds, if need be.
Dr. Gail’s Bottom Line: If your partner’s snoring makes you miserable at night, there are plenty of options available. Having separate bedrooms might be a last resort for a truly intolerable snoring problem, but this doesn’t mean you have a bad marriage.
Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to “Today.” Her latest book is “Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Lie,” by Dr. Gail Saltz. She is also the author of "Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts," which helps parents deal with preschoolers' questions about sex and reproduction. Her first book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was published in 2004 by Riverhead Books. It is now available in a paperback version. For more information, you can visit her Web site, .