Planning to move in with your SO but not too keen on sharing the bed? Well, we have got some good news for you. Even if you might be worried about cover hogging or a new sleep schedule, sleeping with your partner can actually be good for both of you!
In an experiment, 12 heterosexual couples were tested. These pairs had been together for an average of 23.5 years each, and the experiment showed how sleeping with your partner is linked to a 10% increase in REM sleep when compared to those individuals sleeping apart. Sleeping partners also showed longer and undisturbed fragments of REM when they were sleeping together. REM sleep cycles are times when dreaming and memory consolidation processes start working.
Sleeping with your partner won’t necessarily be tranquil. In the experiment, the couples showed more movement when sleeping together than when apart. But even then, both individuals entered sleep stages almost around the same time!
When sleeping apart, the subjects spent around 36.6% of the night moving through their sleep stages. But when they were sleeping together, this increased to 46.9%.
Henning Johannes Drews is the lead author of this study, which was published in Frontiers In Psychiatry. This postdoctoral researcher from the Center for Integrative Psychiatry, Germany, explained how these new findings differ from previous data we had.
“There is – even in the medical community – the notion that if you sleep with a partner, you might subjectively think that you slept well or better, but objectively, your sleep is more disturbed. I would like people to take away that if you want to share a bed with your partner, there is nothing to be said against it.
“It might even be very good for you due to the REM-sleep stabilization.”
Polysomnography and Sleep Quality
Polysomnography is the kind of sleep study where brain waves, movement of the subject, and the oxygen levels in the subject’s blood are all recorded to understand sleeping cycles better.
For this study, the subject couples had to spend 4 nights sleeping in a lab, monitored by scientists.
On one weekend, the couples slept in 2 separate rooms in individual beds, and on the next weekend, they were asked to sleep together in the same room. When they spent the night together, they informed the scientists how they felt their sleep was of better quality than when apart. But the researchers did not find any difference in the total sleeping time or how long it took them to fall asleep.
But the only difference was found in the amount of REM sleep and its structure. When the couples slept apart, there were 8.5 REM sleep disruptions. But when sleeping together, there were only 5.4 disruptions! On average the REM periods lasted for about 13.4 minutes when they were sleeping apart, but it increased to 22 minutes when sleeping next to each other. And the longer the REM cycles, the better it is for our health!
Drews got 2 explanations from this finding. The biological explanation says while our body temperature fluctuates a lot during the REM cycles, the partner’s body helps our body temperature stay stable.
The psychological explanation for the reduced REM disruptions is that the presence of a partner makes us feel more secure. REM sleep has been observed to be disturbed in people with higher psychological stress. The presence of another body indicates that the environment is safe, hence there are fewer disruptions when sleeping with your partner.
Another interesting find from this study was that when sleeping together, there is a sleep synchronization taking place. 47.5% of epochs (small chunks of time within a sleep study that allow scientists to compare stages of sleep) were synchronized when the subjects slept with their partners. The study suggests the depth of the relationship could be deeply impacting the synchronization.
This study was a small one and rather experimental. The data has not been verified on larger subject groups. It took into consideration on healthy, heterosexual couples, so non-hetero couples might give varying data. The data found via this test is a trend and there has to be further research and experiments to fully support the claims.
Till then, if you sleep more comfortably alone, forcefully sleeping with your partner might not be so beneficial for you. Do what helps you get a good night’s sleep!
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