Few things are more comforting than snuggling in bed next to the one you love. Unless, of course, that person snores like a freight train or flops around more than a freshly caught fish. In that case, sharing a bed isn’t just frustrating: it could actually hurt your relationship. In one recent study, psychologists from the University of California, Berkeley, followed couples for two weeks and found that partners fought more and had less empathy for each other after a bad night of sleep. Other research has determined that couples who slept less than seven hours a night for as few as two nights in a row were more hostile, snarky, and negative during arguments than better-rested couples.
How to find the best mattress for married couples
While we can’t promise that a better night’s sleep will resolve all your relationship difficulties, it’s a good place to start. If you and your partner fall into one of the sleep styles below, check our recommendations for the best mattress for married couples.
When it comes to romance, couples who sleep on their sides—whether facing each other or curled together like spoons—report having more sex than those who sleep in any other positions. That apparent benefit aside, cuddling all night has its problems, like achy hips and shoulders from the pressure of side-sleeping. A softer mattress, such as one made from foam or latex, or an innerspring with a pillow top, will let those joints sink in a bit and relieve the pressure, says Michael Breus, PhD, a clinical psychologist and fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Bonus tip: To keep sweating at bay during all that close contact, look into moisture-wicking sheets or pajamas.
(For more help with matching a mattress to your sleep style, see The Right Mattress for the Way You Sleep.)
Don’t feel bad if you and your partner don’t snuggle up at night. A recent poll of 1,000 people by Mattress Advisor found that most couples prefer to sleep with some personal space between them. In fact, the single most popular sleep position for couples is facing away from each other, on their sides.
One oft-cited reason is temperature—especially if one sleeper runs hot. If you’ve got the room for a king-size bed to spread out in, great, but if not, pay special attention to mattress material. Foam beds retain more heat than innerspring mattresses or hybrids that combine foam and coils, which allow for better air flow. In the foam category, latex runs cooler than memory foam.
If you prefer the feeling of memory foam, look for mattresses that incorporate cooling features, such as gel-infused layers, breathable cotton covers, plant-based foams, and materials that wick away moisture.
Everyone tosses and turns in their sleep—most people do it an average of 40 to 60 times a night, according to Consumer Reports. All that rolling around can wake up our partners, especially if they’re light sleepers. The best mattress for married couples in this situation might be one that reduces “motion transfer,” so movement on one side of the bed doesn’t jostle the person on the other.
An innerspring made with pocketed coils that move independently of each other is one option, says Keith Cushner, the founder of the sleep education site Tuck. But the winner in this category is memory foam, which beats out all other types when it comes to isolating motion.
First things first: If you or your bedmate is a serious snorer, you may want to see a doctor to rule out obstructive sleep apnea. Not only can the disorder rob both partners of sleep, it is also linked to a higher risk of all kinds of health dangers. One way to quiet a snoring partner—according to the National Sleep Foundation, as many as 45% of people snore—is to sleep with the head of the bed elevated. Rather than just pile on pillows, the NSF recommends propping up the whole upper body, “since lifting just your head can actually have the opposite effect.” One way to do this is with an adjustable base, like Saatva’s Lineal, which can raise and lower the head at the touch of a button.
(For more on what an adjustable base can do, check out Five Ways an Adjustable Base Will Make Your Life Easier.)
“Marriage certificates don’t require that sleeping preferences align with one another, so couples often visit me with different needs,” says Jeff Scheuer, a 25-year veteran of the bed business and creator of the Beducation video series. “The good news is that it’s usually not too difficult to find something that works for each person.” Dual-control mattresses and adjustable beds let you set up different softness, firmness, elevation, and even temperature levels on each side of the bed. The only downside is that these super-customizable setups can be expensive.
Another option: Make your own king size bed by buying two extra-long twins—one firm, one soft, or whatever each person’s preference—and scoot them together. “I have seen people do this after they’ve tried various king mattresses to no avail,” says Scheuer.
Of course, there’s always the option of sleeping in separate beds or even bedrooms—23 percent of couples sleep separately, according to the National Sleep Foundation (including, as we recently learned, the actor Rob Lowe and his wife). For many couples it’s a move of last resort, but hey, a so-called “sleep divorce” is still better than a real one.
(For more helpful advice on buying a mattress together, see Mattress Buying Tips for Couples.)