Why Everyone Should Sleep Alone
In November, Mallika Rao argued in favor of nightly separation: “Wander too far in search of privacy, and you nullify romance; get too close, and the same occurs.”
Eight and a half years ago, my wife of 37 years passed away. We always slept together. After she died, the empty bed was so lonely that I had trouble sleeping. But over the next year I began to notice that I slept better than I had in decades, and was able to start the day full of energy. There’s nobody on the horizon, but if another lady should someday steal my heart and we decide we can’t live without each other, that will only extend to daytime hours!
Silver Spring, Md.
Reading Mallika Rao’s recent article, I was struck by how my experience runs exactly opposite to what Rao describes. I find that while I can be impatient with some of my wife’s daytime personal habits (for example, I’m more of a neat freak when it comes to the household than she is), our nightly time in bed together binds us closer and soothes the rough spots of our previous day. It’s a comfort, not a burden.
Santa Clara, Calif.
In 2003, I cut out an article from The Wall Street Journal about “the dangers of second-hand snoring,” and left it where my husband could see it. His snoring and the accompanying jerking were keeping me awake and making me angry. The article suggested a “sleep vacation,” in which you try sleeping apart for 10 days. We tried it, and for the same number of hours in bed, I felt as though I had had two hours’ more sleep—probably because I had. We never went back.
Mallika Rao replies:
I love to read these letters, which unfold so many circumstances and solutions. Each anecdote makes sense, and reinforces the feeling I had while reporting and writing. I suppose there’s no real answer to how one should sleep or live. At least, there’s no definite, universally applicable answer. As emphatic as the headline might seem, I didn’t really feel that I’d reached a conclusion. I heard stories of couples who, like Randy, felt the bedroom was their only site of connection. The point, I suppose, is that no one necessarily questions—at least not very publicly—the standards at play.
This story was born out of what I thought was a shameful, private conundrum impossible to explain to others, but wound up drawing out so many confessions along the way. I realized once more that few problems are as unique as one may think. Stigma is a limiting force on the human mind, and without it, people can perhaps reach happier states of being than they might think possible. So I’m happy to read all these letters, which suggest that different arrangements have proved useful and even joyful, and that people are open to experimentation even in the areas of life that draw a stultifying breed of judgment. The more options people know are available for how to live a pleasurable and productive life, the better off, it seems to me, that we can be.