Do you and your partner need a ‘sleep contract’?

Is your partner ruining your sleep? Fortunately there are ways to cope – before it affects your health and happiness.

Every night Julie Smith* would wake about 2am, growing more and more frustrated as she was unable to get back to sleep.

Consequently, she was finding it almost impossible to function each day.

It wasn’t bad sleep habits keeping Julie awake; rather, it was her partner’s loud snoring.

Julie isn’t the only Australian wide awake in the early hours of the night due to their partner’s poor sleep habits.

According to the Sleep Health Foundation, up to 45 per cent of people sleep either poorly or not long enough most nights.

Among common reasons for a bad night’s sleep are a partner’s loud snoring, restlessness, use of screens and different sleep patterns.

Understandably, these constant interruptions can affect our relationships.

According to the 2016 Sleep Foundation report, for one in seven adults, a partner’s sleep problem has a moderate or significant effect on the couple’s relationship.

Unsurprisingly, sleep problems and relationship issues tend to occur simultaneously.

What to do if your partner’s sleep habits are affecting you

Sleep Health Foundation spokeswoman Professor Dorothy Bruck says women in particular often bear the brunt of their partner’s bad sleeping habits, with about 40 per cent of men reported to snore.

But before you give your snoring partner a hard nudge in the back, she suggests accepting your partner’s sleeping habits.

“If you allow yourself to get really annoyed, you’ll release a whole amount of stress hormones, which are incompatible to sleep, and it’ll be much more disruptive,” Prof Bruck says.

She says it is useful to remind yourself that sharing a bed with somebody means you’re going to be disturbed at some point.

“If every little snore annoys you – then you may need to sleep in another bed or room, even just for a few nights a week,” says Prof Bruck.

“If the snoring is unbearable or really loud, have them checked out by a GP to rule out sleep apnoea or contributing health issues.”

If your partner is restless, fidgeting or suffers from restless legs, magnesium may help relax the body and mind.

“Meditation or hypnosis is also a powerful technique to help you become calm, which can help if you’re frustrated at your partner interrupting your sleep,” says Prof Bruck.

Do you need a sleep contract?

Clinical hypnotherapist Claire Aristides says a good night’s sleep and ultimately, a good relationship, comes down to making a “sleep contract”.

“Make some rules that you both respect and appreciate,” says the Mindology app founder.

“Set some boundaries, such as an agreed time to go to bed, when to turn the light off, how long you both scroll on your phones or work before putting it aside in another room.

“You may also need to look at practical factors: Do wine or certain foods affect either of you, are you allowing children to sleep in your bed?

“Even buying new pillows or an extra blanket if one of you is a ‘hogger’ can help remove any resentments.”

Keeping a sleep journal (both of you) for a couple of weeks may help identify a pattern in your sleep, or sleep disturbances.

“By being willing to compromise, together, you can deal with sleep issue and resolve them, together,” says Claire.

*not her real name. Written by Charmaine Yabsley.