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Opinion: Say Goodbye to the Stigma of Sleeping in Separate Bedrooms

For interior designers, consider splitting up your clients’ bedrooms as separate bedrooms becomes a popular choice among couples

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By Architectural Digest US | October 14, 2023 | Bedroom

For the past 15 years, Maddy and her husband have slept in separate bedrooms. About 10 years into their relationship, when she was pregnant with their second child, the pair decided to sleep separately since her husband snores. “We’ve ended up staying apart,” Maddy, who asked that her last name be withheld for privacy, tells AD PRO. “And we love it.”

Though it may go undiscussed, this arrangement is anything but unusual. A 2017 survey from the National Sleep Foundation found that one in four married couples choose to sleep in separate rooms, and a 2012 survey from Better Sleep Council shared similar results. Like Maddy and her husband, many couples who opt for solo quarters do so in the name of better sleep—one partner may snore or use the bathroom frequently, the individuals may be on different schedules, or they may have conflicting preferences on things like noise, light, and temperature. “We have our own rooms, we get to decorate and have what we want, we have big comfy beds for ourselves, and our own bathrooms.” Maddy says. “If we want to come together, we can invite each other over.”

Kelly Taylor, a Rhode Island–based interior designer and founder of Kelly Taylor Interior Design, says that in her experience, this is a new trend. In 25 years of business, she’s only been tasked with designing dual primary bedrooms twice, both times within the last two years. “I wouldn’t be surprised if I see it again,” she says. Interestingly, she says it makes her job easier. When both partners are equally involved in the design process, there are always compromises that have to be made no matter what room she’s working on. “Sometimes, I am really directing a heated marital conversation,” she says. When each couple is given free rein to make any choice they see fit in the design of their personal space, not only does it make the client happy, it spares Taylor another compromise as well.

The greatest demand for separate sleeping arrangement was typically from couples over the age of 50, but younger people are seeing the value of it too. Image: Kensington Leverne.

“It used to be only older clients” that requested divided sleeping quarters, says Nancy Ruddy, co-founder and executive director of CetraRuddy. Though she’s designed a handful of separate bedrooms throughout her career and doesn’t necessarily see it as a new thing, she is noticing a generational change. The greatest demand in this type of sleeping arrangement was typically from couples over the age of 50, she says. “What has changed is that now younger people are seeing the value of it too.”

In fact, one of the first times she designed two primary bedrooms was for a young couple. “They had a great Park Avenue place, and we were combining two apartments,” she says. “The husband was very high up in the financial industry, and the wife was a stay-at-home mom.” With staggeringly different schedules, the couple shared early on that they would prefer two bedrooms so that each could get adequate sleep. “This idea of creating an ultimate sleeping environment has become very important, and not just for people who are further along in their relationship.”

Despite growing popularity, questions about the repercussions of such a decision are often numerous. “There’s no rule out there saying couples have to sleep in the same bedroom,” says Dr. Peggy Loo, a New York State licensed psychologist and the director of Manhattan Therapy Collective. “What matters most is whether the arrangement is by mutual agreement or somehow in service of the relationship,” she explains.

Sleeping in separate rooms can actually bring couples closer together. It lets go of any resentment related to poor sleep, according to sleep specialists. Image via Pexels.

A separate bedroom arrangement can often lead to the assumption that something must be wrong in a relationship or signal emotional distance as a result of the physical distance. However, according to Dr. Shelby Harris, the director of sleep health for Sleepopolis and a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in behavioral sleep medicine, sleeping in separate rooms can actually bring couples closer together. “It lets go of any resentment related to poor sleep,” she explains, adding this also often leads to improved moods and a strengthened connection.

While the benefits of a separate room can be monumental, it makes finding times for connection and intimacy all the more important. Often, this is where designers can set their clients up for success. When Ruddy was designing the bedrooms in the Park Avenue home, the couple was still very eager to create a space they could share. They wanted separate bathrooms where each partner could have their own vanity, toilet, and storage, and “they said, ‘Could you connect them in some way where we can see each other in the morning?’” Ruddy explains.

The answer was a unique shower. “We designed a large shower that had glass on the fronts and backs which connected their two bathrooms,” she says. When not in use, they could open the doors and have, essentially, a very large room where they could chat and get ready for the day together. Another common solution, according to Ruddy, is a private primary suite with two separate interior rooms.

For couples who aren’t looking to move or undergo large renovations, Harris says there’s often another suitable option. “I suggest picking one bed that’s going to be for intimate times—whether that’s spending time together, talking, cuddling, or having sex—and when it’s time to go to sleep, each person goes to their separate spaces,” she says. “Having this combination of a set intimate time and high-quality sleep can actually strengthen the relationship as a whole.”

In addition to separate bedrooms, some designers tapped the benefits of adding a a large shower that had glass on the fronts and backs, which connected their two bathrooms. Image via Unsplash.

Sleep and relationship consideration aside, there is also a certain childlike joy that comes with having—and decorating—a space that is truly all one’s own. “It’s pretty exciting,” Maddy says. “I just bought a painting that I really like that he wasn’t into and put it in my room.” Her husband has his bedroom, which Maddy admits isn’t her favorite, but, as she puts it: “We each get to really express ourselves.”