By Lisa Van Meeteren
I haven’t had a REM cycle since 2002.
Or at least it certainly feels that way. It’s no coincidence that it’s also the year I got married. While many debate about whether or not to co-sleep with their children-that was never a consideration in our household. I have enough trouble getting quality zzz’s without inviting another human being into my bed, as it is already occupied, quite fully by another. Yes, the love of my life, sigh.
When I first began to share my bed with my husband, (earmuffs, Mom) I didn’t mind his “quirky” habits. Everything he did, including throwing his legs on top of me until I dreamt I was in a fifty car pile-up on the QEW and snuggling me until I dreamt I was being “heimliched ,” was a part of his charm. And he didn’t seem to mind that I stretched out like a giant starfish every night. As these sleep habits became less charming we adapted, and invested in a little thing I like to call, the marriage saver, otherwise known as a king bed. Problem solved. Sleep once again became a reality, until…children. And we all know how that goes, so once again sleep deprivation ruled my life, and I obsessed over sleep like some dieters obsess over cheeseburgers, refusing to give into the temptation of sleeping pills in case I was needed.
Then once my kids grew a little older and when they managed to stay healthy, guess what? I still couldn’t sleep. After years of training myself to remain half alert in case a baby, toddler, or sick child needed me, I slept on half alert, like I was taking a light nap. Which meant I heard- EVERYTHING. Every timbre of every snore my husband orchestrated, every slurp, bodily function and whistle annoyed me. I needed a solution so I bought marriage saver #2-earplugs. And it worked. Every night I shoved those babies into my eardrums so hard that I probably have more hearing damage than your average groupie. And not only did I not hear all of my husband’s snoring as an added bonus I didn’t hear the kids the first time they cried either. This meant for the first time since their birth, my husband woke up before I did and attended to them!
So all was good in the universe was again, until….my husband took up night running. I don’t mean he left the house and went jogging, I mean in bed in his dreams. Every night he would run marathons in his sleep his legs whirling around like electric mixers jiggling me awake the second I started to dream. (Which explained how he looked so trim and why the circles under my eyes would make any nocturnal trash loving beast, envious. Yes, raccoons.)
Once again I began missing my beloved REM cycle. I started to think that maybe Victorian couples were on to something in the days of candlelight and separate bed chambers with a “nookie” door. Sounds romantic to me. Imagine this. After a blessed night’s sleep, you awaken refreshed and greet your mate all groomed and ready to go maintaining illusions of grandeur. I could do that. There’s something enticing about my husband not witnessing me with my mouth guard, earplugs, and eye mask, all part of my womb-like and completely unsexy sleep ritual. And just when this was on the forefront of my mind, that’s when I saw it on TV, dangled in front of me like a beacon of hope.
“Many couples are choosing to have two master bedrooms now,” a designer said. He went on to talk about other bedroom ideas, including the new trend of homes being built with two master bedrooms, a preference of many busy modern day couples who are making the quality of their sleep a priority. I wondered…was this solution #3?
So we tried it. Not on purpose at first. My husband had a cold, and his snoring was an operatic assault to the senses, breaking all sound barriers, including my earplugs, and the pillow I shoved over my head. I kept kicking him, (it started out like a love tap, a gentle, ‘hey, you’re snoring’ and it turned into a ninja- like assault) until he finally woke up and said, “I need to get some sleep!” Ditto pal!
He plodded off to the guest room and for a moment I languished like a child making snow angels stretching out as far as I could go. Then I began to feel guilty. He was the one who was sick. I should have left. I didn’t get much sleep that night. The next night he automatically went to the guest room saying that he wanted me to have a good night’s sleep and I did, sort of. His cold improved but the following night he remained in the guest room and it felt odd. Like we were fighting, though we weren’t.
And it hit me. I missed sharing a bed with him. I missed a friendly tap on the shoulder when I’m grinding my teeth, or a sleepy back rub to calm me down. I missed spontaneous morning cuddles that sometimes led to something more. So I googled restless leg syndrome cures, gave him magnesium (solution #4) and invited him back into our bed where he belonged. I knew I was taking a gamble on whether or not I would get a REM cycle but felt like it was better than gambling with the intimacy of our marriage. So, my take on co-sleeping with my partner? I’m all in. Gassiness, snoring, kicking, cuddles, comfort and closeness- in.
Would you consider the nouveau bedroom ideas that include couples who sleep in separate beds in order to get a quality night’s sleep? Do you have some marriage advice or solutions you’ve come up with to overcome insomnia and sleep deprivation?
About the Author
Lisa Van Meeteren is the mother of two children, ages 5 and 9. She works as a copywriter and has just completed a novel!