Sharing a bed has a major effect on sleep quality and duration, finds study

Whether it's positive or negative depends on who you're bunking up with

Two pairs of feet poking out from under the covers
(Image credit: Getty)

A new study reveals that sharing a bed with a partner or spouse is linked to better quality sleep as well as better overall mental health... but letting your child sleep in your bed has the opposite effect. 

The research comes from the University of Arizona (opens in new tab), and is based on data collected from just over a thousand working-age adults in southeastern Pennsylvania. Those who spent most nights sharing a bed with a partner fell asleep faster and spent more time asleep on average than those who never share a bed with a partner. They also reported less severe insomnia and lower levels of fatigue, and were less likely to suffer from sleep apnoea.

There's more good news for the happily coupleds, too. Those who sleep regularly alongside a partner were less depressed, anxious and stressed, and reported higher levels of social support and satisfaction with life and relationships, too. So good for you guys, I guess?

Of course, it probably depends on how good a bedmate your life partner of choice is. If the love of your life is a wriggler or a snorer, chances are they're not going to have a positive impact on your sleep habits. Increasingly, we're hearing discussions of people choosing to sleep separately from their partner, in a phenomenon alarmingly referred to as sleep divorce

What about letting your kids sleep in your bed?

Introduce children into the mix and the picture is quite different, too. It probably won't come as a massive surprise that sleeping with a child in your bed isn't quite as soothing as bunking up with a romantic partner. In the study, those who let their child sleep alongside them most nights reported more severe insomnia, higher stress levels, were at higher risk of sleep apnoea, and overall had less control over their sleep. 

"Very few research studies explore this, but our findings suggest that whether we sleep alone or with a partner, family member, or pet may impact our sleep health," said senior study author Dr. Michael Grandner, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona. "We were very surprised to find out just how important this could be."

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Ruth is currently on secondment as Sleep Editor for Tom's Guide and TechRadar. The role is an extension of her work on T3, where she ran the site's Wellness channel, which includes sleep, relaxation, yoga and general wellbeing. She was also Outdoors editor, reviewing and writing about everything from camping gear and hiking boots to mountain bikes, drones and paddle boards. She has tested more mattresses than her small flat can handle, and has had to implement a one-in-one-out pillow policy, for fear of getting smothered in the night.