Sleep is our most basic human need. Some thirty million of us will attest to the impact of insomnia on well being. Indeed, unlike fasting from food which humans can survive for weeks, being deprived of sleep can kill you in days. The impact is so severe, that it not only precipitates physical disability, but also insanity which it is why it was one of the cruelest and most inhumane torture methods ever devised. Considering that complete lack of sleep is fatal, it is not really a stretch to realize that consistent late hours and a growing sleep debt we all share is responsible for a wide variety of illness, injury and disease. The ability to rest and rejuvenate is at the essence of our vitality.
Under the best of conditions, maintaining loving relationships is one of life’s biggest rewards and challenges. Many of us don’t realize how big role exhaustion plays in our relationship skills. The patience to nurture the bonds of intimacy in our relationships is not strengthened through fatigue, rather it is often one of its first victims. The struggle between sleep and sex is a common one for most couples in long term relationships. Tiredness is one of the most commonly cited reasons for not being intimate.
With or without sex, the act of sleeping with someone you love is a bonding act in itself. The soft sweetness of shared quiet and the silent moments of drifting off to sleep with the scent of someone dear nearby is healing. Over sixty percent of Americans share their bed with a significant other and although sleeping with a partner can sometimes challenge your ability to sleep, more than 2/3 of those polled said they prefer sharing a bed to sleeping alone.
Having shared my bed for my entire adult life, I know the problem solving and conflict resolution that goes on about sleeping habits; who joins us in bed, the weight of the blankets, the amount of light in the room, the window open or closed… How we work through this most intimate part of sharing a life is a deep reflection of our relationship. The most successful sleep arrangements, like the most enduring relationships rely on the couple’s sensitivity to each other’s needs and willingness to compromise. Sleeping next to my husband, even with the accommodations we both need to make for it to work, is the most extended time I share with him daily and even asleep, we connect and recharge the places that keep us together.
Giving up sex for sleep is a good idea when just lying side by side is all you have in you. But if this becomes the routine, then we lose the powerful source of vitality that comes with a meaningful intimate encounter. Sexual energy that is stored in the body is a force that can be used to revitalize even the most exhausted among us. Often times I have been cajoled into intimacy when I thought I was too tired, only to find myself feeling better than I had in days.
It helps to plan your intimate times when you are not tired because you create the mental space in your day which helps you to both conserve the energy for your rendezvous and anticipate with revived memory how great it was last time. As you begin to get tired in the evening, remind each other about the hour and your date. If you can shut the bedroom door even by 10pm the chances that you might have a great time and reasonable amount of sleep is pretty good.
Prioritize sex with the person you love as highly as basic hygiene. You wouldn’t go a week with out a shower… Even if the main event isn’t a daily experience, the compassion and interest you show your partner daily leaves room for this to happen. Be nice and understanding about the need to sleep, and realize if you are sleeping side by side, it’s a win either way.