- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Night owl or early bird? Whirling dervish or pajamaless snoozer? Some of the biggest skirmishes in the battle of the sexes take place between the sheets. Snoring, sheet-snitching and opposing sleeping styles don’t make for a restful night for couples who slumber together.

“Sharing a bed is a complicated, changing and often a challenging experience,” said Paul Rosenblatt, a University of Minnesota social-science professor who interviewed 45 couples about bed-sharing habits.

It’s an entire social system, he said. For better or worse, annoying twitches, insomnia, cuddling and even sleeping in the nude are among hundreds of factors that contribute to nocturnal dynamics. The importance of pillow talk, however, is crucial to the relationship, Mr. Rosenblatt found.

“If couples don’t have this time in bed, then they’re in trouble,” he said, noting that quiet moments before sleep can provide well-focused time when couples “make decisions, deal with disagreements and solve problems.”

But harmonious sleeping is not guaranteed — it’s an acquired skill.

“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,” Mr. Rosenblatt said. “As life changes, people have to learn how to sleep together and not just once, but again and again.”

Indeed, work tensions, children, health concerns, passing anxieties and even tastes in bed linens — whether the quilt is tucked in matters to many — have an impact.

“For example, his insomnia can wreck her sleep,” said Mr. Rosenblatt, adding that snoring requires many couples to develop their own countermeasures. That could mean a little nudge — or beds on separate floors. Still, most husbands and wives value their relationship over a good night’s sleep.

“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,” Mr. Rosenblatt said.

Sharing a bed can be a lifesaver.

“One couple was spooning as they slept when the woman had a seizure, and the husband woke up immediately and called 911,” he added.

A national survey of sleeping habits conducted last year by the Washington-based National Sleep Foundation revealed that men tend to need less sleep than women but snooze better. Among married respondents, 77 percent said their partner had a sleeping problem and 67 percent said snoring was an issue.

A 2003 study from the University of Pennsylvania found that women recover better from sleep deprivation than men do. Researchers found they had been “historically” conditioned to function despite sleep loss by such demands as child care.

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