A sleep divorce is not your only option

Sleep studies around the world are showing the same results: almost a third of adults are not getting enough sleep, and it’s the same in Australia! In a desperate attempt to reclaim better sleep, adults are considering a sleep divorce but it needn’t be your only option.


What is a sleep divorce?

A sleep divorce refers to what is considered by many as an unusual sleeping arrangement. A couple with this type of arrangement sleep in separate beds, often in a separate room on permanent basis. While this type of arrangement is not unusual amongst shift-workers and new parents, it is considered unusual in a healthy couple who have relatively similar sleep and wake times.


While there are many reasons a couple would choose to change their sleeping arrangements, it is essentially due to one or both of the couple experiencing a change in their sleep profile. This could be where one sleep partner may become a light sleeper over time and as a result the existing sleep habits of the other person make it difficult for them to sleep well. Or one of them develops snoring or sleep apnea which makes it hard for the other person to fall asleep and stay asleep.


For both situations, unblocking the nose, switching to nasal breathing and reducing breathing volume, can significantly improve the sleep experience for both sleep profile changes.  


The relationship between nasal obstruction, mouth breathing, snoring and sleep apnea is well documented [1-3]. Several research studies have showed how breathing through the nose offers a distinct advantage during sleep, resulting in fewer incidences of obstructive sleep apnea than when a patient breathes through the mouth at night [4].  


Breathing is an automatic activity and controlled by the brain. Many people assume that if they’re alive, they’re breathing. Yes, that may be true, but they may be breathing badly.


Breathing should be inaudible except during strenuous exercise. It should be via the nose and from the diaphragm. A good breathing rate is less than 15 breaths a minute. If you habitually breathe through your mouth by day you are almost certainly breathing too much. Frequent yawns, coughs, throat clearing, sighs or sniffs are typical signs of dysfunctional breathing. If you snore or suffer from sleep apnoea you are essentially hyperventilating (over-breathing) in your sleep. Dysfunctional breathing underpins most sleep disorders. The signs and symptoms are present day and night and can be readily identified in a breathing assessment.


If your sleeping partner is suggesting a sleep divorce it could be a sign of dysfunctional breathing and perhaps a warning for potential health problems as you age. Use it as an opportunity to investigate your breathing and to learn healthy breathing habits that can decrease your snoring and apneas. However dysfunctional breathing may not be the only reason for requesting a sleep divorce.


A sleep divorce is also proposed when a person still loves their partner but does not have a need to express their love physically. It could signify a sign of comfort and security in the relationship. However, many couples don’t often see it this way. When a sleep divorce is suggested, it could also be a good time to check-in on your relationship and each other’s sleep and relationship needs. So that if you do go ahead with a sleep divorce that is unrelated to dysfunctional breathing, you are both having your needs met. And it doesn’t feel like a punishment to sleep alone.


If you would like to book in a no obligation breathing assessment with me, click on this link.



  1. Kim EJ, Choi JH, Kim KW, Kim TH, Lee SH, Lee HM, Shin C, Lee KY, Lee SH.
    The impacts of open-mouth breathing on upper airway space in obstructive sleep apnea: 3-D MDCT analysis.Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2010 Oct 19.
  2. Kreivi HR, Virkkula P, Lehto J, Brander P.Frequency of upper airway symptoms before and during continuous positive airway pressure treatment in patients with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. Respiration. 2010;80(6):488-94.
  3. Ohki M, Usui N, Kanazawa H, Hara I, Kawano K. Relationship between oral breathing and nasal obstruction in patients with obstructive sleep apnea.Acta Otolaryngol Suppl. 1996;523:228-30.
  4. Fitzpatrick MF1, McLean H, Urton AM, Tan A, O’Donnell D, Driver HS. Effect of nasal or oral breathing route on upper airway resistance during sleep. Eur Respir J. 2003 Nov;22(5):827-32.

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