Sleep is a delicate thing. Given we are unconscious for anywhere between five and 10 hours, it is when we are at our most vulnerable. There might be sudden jerks: a flailing limb here, starfishing leg position there. Perhaps there are sounds: inaudible murmurs and moans resulting from lucid dreams; grunts and snorts because of some undiagnosed nasal condition. Sometimes there is also gas.
My point is that sleeping is hardly a time for romance. And yet, for whatever reason, it has been sold to us as something we must share with another person. Not just once in a while. But night after night, month after month, year after year. The idea is that, once you find your soulmate, you enter into some sort of silent tyrannical contract that compels you to share a bed for literally no reason other than “it’s just what people do”.
But perhaps it shouldn’t be that way. Consider Cameron Diaz, who this week revealed that she and her husband of eight years, Good Charlotte musician Benji Madden, don’t sleep in the same bedroom. “We should normalise separate bedrooms,” said the 51-year-old actor during an episode of the podcast Lipstick on the Rim, hosted by Molly Sims and Emese Gormley. “To me, I would literally... I have my house, you have yours. We have the family house in the middle. I will go and sleep in my room. You go sleep in your room. I’m fine,” she said. “And we have the bedroom in the middle that we can convene in for our relations.”
Diaz is not the first person to suggest such a thing – nor, I suspect, will she be the last. Many will recall Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton, who, when they were together, famously lived in separate adjoining houses. I’m not saying we all need to go that far. But separate bedrooms? I’d say that’s essential.
Nocturnal quirks aside, think about all the times you and your partner have conflicting schedules that risk disrupting one another’s sleep. Say one of you has had a long day at work and fancies an early night. You do your skincare routine. Get a few chapters into your new book. And doze off to the gentle sounds of your white noise machine. Delightful. Except for the fact that, just a couple of hours later, you’re abruptly awoken by your partner, who has stumbled home from the pub after one too many drinks and completely forgotten you exist. Cue fumbling with light switches, thumps around the room, and an eventual thud beside you.
Wouldn’t it be nicer, and far more civilised, to stay separate in your own space? Then, as Diaz suggests, when the moment for “relations” does strike, you can enjoy it together, on your own terms, before retreating back to your own personal bedroom that can be entirely dictated by your own personal routine?
Of course, it might not always be possible, given that most couples who live together probably do so in a one-bedroom property. At least, the ones I know do. But for those of us who can afford such a luxury, separate rooms could be a game changer.
There will be those who argue that cuddling at night is crucial for intimacy between partners. Sure – but do you ever really stay snuggled for longer than a few minutes? Remember the “hug and roll” episode in Friends? You know, when Ross suggests that, in order to get a good night’s sleep with a partner, the trick is to hold them close until they fall asleep before gently rolling away? Well, wouldn’t it be better if you could roll all the way to another room?
I don’t just think it’s a good idea. I think it’s crucial to the success of any modern-day relationship.