My boyfriend is a night owl. I call myself a morning person, but that’s not strictly true. I’m not particularly excited by the prospect of waking up early, but I find it difficult to function on less than eight hours of sleep and near-impossible to construct sentences longer than three words after midnight. When we first started dating, I almost always stayed up as late as he did. I’d sleep in and wander the earth in a headachey haze, but it didn’t matter, because I was young and in love and, also, I worked nights. As the months passed — and I transitioned from tutoring in the evenings to a job that required me to work adult human hours — that arrangement quickly became untenable. (I’m also fully sympathetic toward night owls coupled up with early birds: the only thing worse than feeling totally drained at the office in the morning is feeling like a wide-awake prisoner in your own bed.)
The first time we consciously went to bed separately, I felt weird about it, like we’d failed some kind of timeless, inexpressible Test of Love. But then, the next morning, I woke up feeling rested as hell and got a bunch of work done as he continued to snooze. The game had changed.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s nice to fall asleep next to something warm and animate. With that in mind, we’ve developed a system of several minutes of girlfriend-mandated snuggle time, after which I konk out and he returns to the Internet for another hour or two. Other nights, we’ll watch a show of his choosing on Netflix, something in which I’m minimally invested and perfectly happy to pass out to (Top Chef Canada is a reliable favorite in this category). I’ve also developed a new appreciation for the joint afternoon nap.
If your circadian rhythms line up, amazing, congratulations, enjoy. But I’d venture that, for most couples, separate bedtimes are a mutually beneficial lifestyle choice, especially on weekdays. Sex is quality time. Cuddling is quality time. Eating Cheetos in bed together is quality time. Sleep isn’t — after all, you are, by definition, unconscious at the time. Getting a good night’s sleep is something that’s entirely personal and vital for your health. Don’t give it short shrift.