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Compatible sleep styles contribute to the health and happiness of our relationships. So what are some of our common sleep schedule differences and how can we solve them?

Give-and-take eases every good partnership. For starters, partners should agree to follow the standard advice; stick to a regular sleep schedule and ban the TV and computer along with work and study materials from the bedroom. Negotiating our sleep schedule and factors such as room temperature, colour, darkness and sound, as well as lights-out time, is relatively easy for most couples, but some sleep schedule compromises are more difficult to make, especially when our partner is asleep.

Take the dreaded space hog. While most couples know that buying a bed large enough to accommodate them both comfortably is a must, our individual sleep positions as well as our size mean some of us need more space than others. If we usually nod off in the “soldier” position, we’ll only require a narrow strip atop the sheets, but if we go “starfish,” we may invade our partner’s side (view illustrated guide) as the night wears on. When you’re purchasing a mattress, try it out with your usual sleep positions, to ensure it’s the right size.

Then there’s the firmness factor. One partner may prefer a supersoft mattress, while the other sleeps better on a surface like board. Two smaller mattresses on a single frame are a good solution here, and give each person their best sleep. This parting of the ways works well if you’re paired up with a blanket hog, too. Two single duvets allow each sleeper to cocoon comfortably without stealing someone else’s covers.

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Snoring and sleep disturbances are big issues. The National Sleep Foundation reports that about three-quarters of all adults snore and suffer from fragmented, restless sleep patterns. If one spouse snores, his or her partner is likely to come up short by almost an hour of sleep each night. Over time, this results in a sleep debt that affects the partner’s physical, emotional and mental health, and costs the relationship, as well. The Canadian Society of Otolaryngology1 says that snoring is no small matter for either the sleeper or the partner, and that severe snoring can lead to sleep apnea.

Restless legs syndrome (a.k.a. WED/RLS) is another common, disruptive sleep disorder that can cause creeping sensations in the legs and involuntary movements, such as kicking out – and an unhappy bedmate on the receiving end of the blows.

Looking after your own sleep challenges is a loving way of making sure your partner sleeps better too, but – even when you’ve considerately shared your space, happily compromised and dealt with your snoring – you might find that you still sleep better apart. In fact, it’s estimated that about a third of couples sleep in separate beds or even separate rooms, but many keep quiet about it. That’s changing as people realize that sleeping apart may be one of the smartest compromises we can make to share a good night’s sleep, and actually enhances a couple’s time together, in bed and out. For people with the space, the trend to separate master suites is growing. It’s expected that more than half of the custom-built homes in America will boast a pair of master bedrooms by 2015. These separate sleeping spaces can also save the day (and night) when partners don’t share compatible circadian rhythms – one is a night owl and the other is an early bird.

And of course the tail end of any bedmates story wouldn’t be complete without a word about some of our four-footed sleeping companions. About half of dog owners and about three-quarters of cat owners let our pets snuggle into our beds for the night, and surveys show that for better or worse we’re more apt to put up with a snoring, kicking pet than a noisy partner.

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