According to a new study, having a sweetheart to cuddle you in bed isn’t just pleasant — it can help you get a better sleep.
Researchers from the University of Arizona found that those who share a bed with a spouse or partner sleep better than those who sleep by themselves, and may even have a lower risk of issues such as insomnia and sleep apnea.
“Very few research studies explore this, but our findings suggest that whether we sleep alone or with a partner, family member, or pet may impact our sleep health,” Dr. Michael Grandner, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona and senior study author, said in a press release. “We were very surprised to find out just how important this could be.”
The research presented last week in the annual meeting of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society, focused on data from around 1,000 adults living in southeastern Pennsylvania.
This data was gathered in the Sleep and Health Activity, Diet, Environment and Socialization (SHADES) study, which sought to pose a number of questions to a cohort of participants in order to get a better picture of how sleep affects various parts of our health .
Participants filled out surveys reporting on the frequency with which they shared a bed with a partner or spouse, a child or children, pets, other family members, or no one.
They measured insomnia, sleep quality, fatigue and sleep apnea risk using established indexes for these issues. They also looked at age, sex, race, income and education to see if these confounded the results.
Those who answered that they slept with a partner or spouse “most nights” scored higher on their sleep quality than those who slept alone. They also displayed less WASO — “wake after sleep onset” — which is when a person experiences wakefulness after they have already clearly fallen asleep, a measure of sleep fragmentation.
“Sleeping with a romantic partner or spouse shows to have great benefits on sleep health including reduced sleep apnea risk, sleep insomnia severity, and overall improvement in sleep quality,” Brandon Fuentes, undergraduate researcher in the department of psychiatry at the University of Arizona and lead author of the study, said in the release.
However, those who often shared a bed with a child reported greater levels of insomnia, less control over their sleep and seemed to have a greater risk of apnea.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which a person’s breathing while sleeping is erratic and can stop or start abruptly, and it can be dangerous.
Sleeping with a partner also was associated with lower depression and anxiety compared to those who slept alone more often, while sharing a bed with a child more frequently was associated with higher stress.
The study does have limitations, including that it relied on self-reported impacts through surveys, which may not have reflected the full extent of whether participants experienced good sleep or not.