A reader recently asked me about the sleeping arrangements I'd recommend for a couple with a narcoleptic spouse. My answer is simple: do what works. I really mean that. Whether it's sleeping separately, sleeping together, a traditional bed, two beds in one room, or totally separate rooms - do whatever allows you both to get your much needed rest.
I didn't always feel this way.
When my husband and I first married, I expected what many new couples enjoy: snuggling in bed with the person you're in love with and gently drifting off to sleep together. Within the first few weeks of our marriage, I was rudely awakened from that expectation - literally. I quickly realized that my husband snored - loudly. He would stop breathing at times... and then gasp wildly for air, sometimes choking in a fight to take a breath. He talked. He laughed. He flailed his arms sometimes. He occasionally yelled or even screamed. It was nearly impossible for me to get any sleep with him by my side. And snuggling? Ha! Although we may have started out spooning, as my husband drifted off to sleep, he would jerk and tremble when touched. Needless to say, we knew that we would have to make some different sleeping arrangements.
Not all people with narcolepsy have such extreme difficulty getting a sound night's sleep. Although trouble sleeping at night is a very common symptom of the disease, it isn't an absolute. See, my husband also suffers from sleep apnea (hence the snoring and gasping problems), mild restless leg syndrome (touching him as he sleep disturbs him greatly), and hypnagogic hallucinations (which causes him to talk, laugh, and move in response to images that are simply dreams). Before his diagnosis, we tried everything. I tried over-the-counter sleep aids to help me fall asleep sooner - fail. I tried ear plugs of a variety of materials (and prices) - fail. We tried products that claimed to stop snoring - fail. We even tried combining solutions - major fail. Finally we were forced to admit that the only solution that seemed to work for us was to sleep in separate rooms. Initially, I felt saddened at the thought that we wouldn't fall asleep in each others arms. After my first good night's sleep in years, however, my feelings changed. I could only think, "Ah, sweet relief!"
That's where it stands today. 90% of the time, we sleep in separate rooms. This does not mean that we live in separate rooms however. We just sleep separately. It means more rest for each of us, which ultimately, is better for our marriage. We're not the only ones, either. In an article about her own relationship, author Sophie Keller examined why sleeping in separate rooms works for many couples.
My advice remains the same. Ignore the critics, the TV couples, or what
your friends are doing. Do what works to allow you both to get some sleep.