Sleep Patterns: Should Yours Match Your Partner’s?

According to Till Roenneberg, a professor of chronobiology at Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, it is actually better if this is not the case. Roenneberg studies the biological roots of sleep. He says each person has a sleep chronotype, an internal timing profile that is specific to you and can vary up to 12 hours with others. He says the best way to determine your chronotype is to identify your preferred midpoint of sleep.

His research shows that 60% of people have a midpoint of sleep between 3:30am and 5:00am, with women tending to have earlier midpoints than men by a difference of up to two hours. Roenneberg explains that problems arise when there is a disconnect between preferred sleeping times and what personal or work lives demand.

“If you don’t sleep during your own internal timing window, you will not be as socially capable or as effective at work, and you will have somebody to blame for it, and that is your spouse.”

He says having different rest schedules can benefit a relationship, suggesting that people with babies can time-shift caring for the children at night, or those without children can schedule more time for themselves. “Especially in marriages that have gone on for a long time, I hear complaints about not being able to meet with the girlfriends enough or go drinking with the guys,” he says. “If both parties accept their differences, the late type can go out with the boys at night, and the early type can meet her girlfriends in the morning.”

Heather Gunn, a psychologist and couples sleep researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, has found that couples do not need to be sleeping at the same time to have a healthy relationship. “There’s even some evidence that well-adjusted couples who have mismatched sleep schedules are actually much better at problem-solving,” she says. Gunn advises couples who sleep at different times to make sure they find other times to connect, whether it’s the morning, the half-hour before the first partner goes to sleep, or even the weekend. Suffering from insomnia? Your genes may be to blame. Click here to find out more.

“Why is it important that you go to bed at the same time?” she asks. “My hunch is that the person feels a need for more closeness or security. We don’t innately need to go to bed at the same time.”

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