On Sex and Co-sleeping

I got married back in November, after knowing my husband for 7 years.  He is my best friend, my soul partner, my rock, my clown, all of those good things.  And we often don’t sleep together.

“Gasp!  What?!  You don’t sleep together?!  Doomed for sure…” I can imagine some people thinking.

But I am writing to dispel the myth that co-sleeping leads to a sexless relationship, as well as the notion that couples have to sleep in the same bed in order to have a happy sex life.

A common sentiment expressed when the topic of co-sleeping comes up is that it must destroy marriages, and that “poor dad” must be kicked out of the bed so mother and child can use it.  But that is not true for most co-sleeping families; many bed-sharers sleep all together, with both parents and however many children they might have.  And even in my situation, where my spouse and I do sleep separately most of the time, it’s not because he’s kicked out of the bed or playing second fiddle.  It’s because it works for us, all three of us equally.

”Doesn’t it ruin intimacy?” people ask.  ”When/where do you have sex?!” they want to know.

Do you really want to know?  If so, read on.

We have sex multiple times on weekends, and sporadically throughout the week in the evening, as that is what his work schedule allows.  We mostly have quickies on weekdays, and long, slow sex on the weekends.  We sneak away to “nap” and “give each other massages” as often as we can.  We have sex on the couch, on the other couch, on the living room floor, in the kitchen, on the kitchen floor (the kitchen sees a lot of action; I guess I look good cookin’), on the chair in my painting studio, on the chair in the dining room, in the guest bed, outside in the yard, in the van…  Yoga mats, piles of blankets, and tons of coconut oil helps.

The idea that co-sleeping can somehow ruin a relationship implies that all or most sex must take place in a bed.  Clearly that is not the case, and I’d argue that it makes it more fun and interesting.  It also makes using a bed somewhat of a luxury; a big playground!

This has been an easy arrangement for my family, because when my husband and I got more serious in our relationship, I had been a single parent and my son and I had already been co-sleeping, just the two of us, for four years.  I knew the benefits of co-sleeping when my son was born, and we’ve done it since birth.  We had our rhythm, our preferences, and both of us are light sleepers.  My husband gets up for work at 5 am to the sound of NPR on his alarm, and I would inevitably wake up every morning at that time if we were bed-mates, and I don’t want to.  We love to take (actual) naps together and have an excuse to sleep together, like staying in a hotel.  But for day-to-day living, it works better for our son and myself to co-sleep, and my husband to have his own sleep space.  We are going to practice sleeping together more often when our new baby comes in April so we can all be closer together.  But for now we are happy and it works.

And we still manage to have an active, passionate, loving, healthy sex life.   Sleeping in the same bed, and sleeping without a child in the mix, can be a benefit to promoting intimacy, but it is not essential.  There are so many other ways.

Related: Touched Out? 5 Tips to Help You Reclaim Intimacy

I read a quote once about women, but I think it applies to any gender; something to the effect of: “A woman is like a crockpot.  You have to turn her on in the morning for her to be ready by dinner time.”  This rings true for me in the sense that I want my day to be charged with love and closeness.  My partner and I make sure to touch each other daily.  He leaves me a love note every morning.  We have a long hug when he gets home from work.  We stop what we’re doing to embrace often.  We hold hands when we talk and give each other quick massages when time allows.  Both of our Love Languages are physical touch, followed by quality time and words of affirmation, so we act on those as often as possible.  We let each other know how desired we are; I tell him how good he looks to me, and he tells me the same.  We try to make life easier by sharing household and parenting duties evenly, working together happily to make our life comfortable, healthy, and simple.

We thank each other a lot.  I thank him for working so hard for our family, for being open to our unique relationship, for doing the dishes after I cook, for “being the train” every night to carry our son up to bed, for his emotional intelligence, for talking things through, for fixing stuff and shoveling and mowing the lawn.  He thanks me for being a gentle mother, for embracing who he is, for cooking yummy healthy food, for “taking such good care” of him, for doing the dishes on the rare occasion that I get to them first, for the helpful reminders, for being a good partner.

Showing appreciation and love fosters more closeness and intimacy for us than snoring next to each other without a kid in the bed ever could.  This is what works for us.

I was going to say that co-sleeping doesn’t affect my relationship, but it does– positively.  It helps our boy sleep peacefully and prevents bedtime battles.  Co-sleeping helped me tremendously as a single parent, allowing me to breastfeed successfully, sleep often, and feel bonded with my baby while figuring out motherhood alone.  And it continues to be a beautiful blessing in my family.

The above article was originally published in Mothering in February of 2014. Since then, more mothers find that co-sleeping is a perfect fit for their family. We can understand why!

The Case for Sleeping Separately

Even if you decide to co-sleep it doesn’t mean that everyone has to share the same bed. You and your partner can sleep in separate rooms while still maintaining intimacy and a sex life. This boggles many people’s minds, we know.

It wasn’t until the 1950s that people began sleeping in the same bed together again, really. That’s right- until about 1850 couples slept like most of the population does now, in one double bed. But right around 1850, society began a different way of thinking, saying that double beds were “old-fashioned” and “unhealthy.”

Many couples moved to twin beds, and it stayed that way for about 100 years. During this time period, many believed that people would get sick from sleeping so closely together all night long. A popular book of the time by Dr. William Whitty Hall stated that people “Should have a single bed in a large, clean, light room, so as to pass all the hours of sleep in a pure fresh air, and that those who fail in this, will, in the end, fail in health and strength of limb and brain, and will die while yet their days are not all told.”

Related: Top 6 Best Mattresses for Co-Sleeping

But then in the 1950s, the way of thinking changed and has continued along the same lines for decades. Today, many people believe that sleeping in separate beds signifies an issue in one’s marriage. They see it as couples being distant with each other, lacking intimacy, and that trouble is looming behind closed doors. But proponents of sleeping in separate beds, or even separate bedrooms altogether, say that this arrangement works well for them, and is even healthier for their relationship. Here are a few reasons they share:

  • They sleep more soundly without interruptions from their partner getting up, rolling over, or snoring.
  • It helps to appreciate the relationship more. A little distance and space never hurts, and you may feel genuinely excited to see your partner after sleeping separately overnight. It not only gives you a little “me time” to rest and reflect, but it also can help simmer any arguments that happened before bed.
  • It decreases resentment- Do you ever wake up with the baby and see your partner sleeping soundly, secretly resenting them for all that sleep they are getting and “not hearing the baby cry?” Sleeping separately, especially when you are co-sleeping with a new baby, can decrease that resentment.And if you are starting to feel like it’s not an equal partnership for you to always have to get up with the baby every night, you can ask your partner to trade off co-sleeping nights with you. Not only does that equalize your relationship but it also allows your partner to have some significant bonding time with your little one.

Whatever your sleeping arrangements, it’s absolutely feasible to co-sleep with kids and have an active sex life. Just as it is to sleep separately and have an active sex life. The moral of the story is that kids don’t have to put ends to active sex lives!


Photo: The Faces/Shutterstock

15 thoughts on “On Sex and Co-sleeping”

  1. What a wonderful article. I was perplexed when warned that co-sleeping would compromise my intimacy and marriage. What does sleeping have to do with sex?! Nothing, in our house. At first people’s input about the “dangers” of co-sleeping made us wonder if we were making a mistake– until we realized that we all get a great night’s sleep every night. Who can argue with that?

  2. We have been cosleeping for years and both my husband and I sleep in the bed with our little ones. So we tend to be more day time getting it on people- that and it works better with my husbands work schedule. We will go to the bedroom when the little ones are napping somewhere else. Or we will do it when all the kids are playing together (we have older ones to keep an eye on the little ones, and our youngest is 3 now). We “organize our closet” quite often 🙂 lol

  3. Thank you, what a wonderful inspiring article. As a single parent I feel hope for future relationships having read this! My son, now six, and I have co-slept since he was six months old – when I finally gave up on trying to get any sleep with him in a Moses basket – and his dad quickly became very resentful about the co-sleeping, claiming he was driven out of bed as it disturbed his sleep. Our relationship gradually broke down, and he made no effort to have sex in more creative ways although I suggested it and tried to initiate it. We split when my son was nearly two – still co-sleeping – and this was one of the main factors – we just grew further and further apart.

  4. When my son (now 7) was born, we didn’t intend to co-sleep, but it just kind of happened. My husband is a very light sleeper, though, and my son snores, so that didn’t work out well. For the longest time, I was a “bed hopper;” I’d get my son to bed in his room (in a full-size bed), spend some time with the husband, go to bed with him, and then move to my son’s bed when he’d yell in the middle of the night. When were expecting my daughter (8mo), I knew better than to think it would work with her in bed with my husband and me, so we moved the futon to her room and got a better mattress for it; that’s where she and I sleep, while my husband is in “our” bed. It’s also like you mentioned: he gets up early for work, and I don’t want to wake up that early. My daughter and I are happy. On the occasional weekend, both kids and I will sleep in “Dad’s bed” while he sleeps elsewhere. And we still manage to have sex in the evenings when the kids are in bed, or on weekends during the baby’s nap, while my son is playing, and we go to “snuggle a few minutes.” It works for us.

  5. I like my bed for just my husband and I, but my 5 month usually gets to come in bed at least once during the night to nurse and sleep. He sleeps right by our bed, but I’m hoping to soon have him in his brother’s room! I don’t like to share my bed with kids that move around as I will never get any sleep! It’s all preference though, I find it so cool that some of you can just find creative snuggle ways with your hubby and co-sleep!

  6. I wish it was the same for us, but we have two housemates so co-sleeping does hinder us from having a private space. We don’t have a van and the backyard is shared, plus we live in a rainy area and my husband is prone to bug bites. I want to co-sleep but I miss being intimate with my husband! Baby number two has a hard time sleeping without mama though! Hope to move her to her brother’s room soon.

  7. My husband and I have co-slept with all eight of our kids. Two are still there. We’ve never had issues, obviously. 😉

  8. we do it different then this article, so here is my own article comment. I co-sleep for nursing my babies. Parenting teaches us to be selfless. Dad’s learn this too. We all sleep in the same bed until the baby is put in a toddler bed. and we just kick the kids out in the hallway or to their own bed if we want alone time. with pre-meditation babies are put to sleep somewhere else or get moved to the side or somewhere safe during the festivities. anyone with kids knows kids sleep like rocks. I finally got rid of the crib because we never used it. a toddler will sometimes fall asleep on our bed and we move them to their bed. by morning they are back in our bed or on the floor next to our bed or in the hall with the door open. we have a lock on our door if we really don’t want them coming in. but they are predictable at waking up between 3 and 6 am so we get alone time between when the baby falls asleep between 10-midnight and the 3 am kid. I am way used to no sleep as this is our bazillionth child, so co-sleeping is the only way to get some sleep! It is much easier to tuck my 3am toddler into bed with me then to put them back in their bed. It is much easier to tell my bedwetting 6 yr old to change his clothes and sleep in the hallway by my room then to get up and change the sheets that can wait till morning. Or my 8 or 10 yr old that they can sleep on our floor instead of dealing with nightmares and fears and getting them back in their own bed. One day they will all be grown and gone and it will be just my husband and me in bed. we make couple time for each other and I don’t think co-sleeping lessons time together. I think it makes more couple time together because when your kid feels secure, they sleep better. Plus I can sleep in longer because I know where my children are at in the morning and diaper changes are right there handy. the only thing better, would be to have a mini fridge next to my bed for toddler bottles, at night. Instead of getting up to check on kids and getting no sleep, I can just look over at them and feel them breathing. And while I am at it, I can run my hand through my husbands hair or touch his heart because I happen to be checking on my babies right where I am. And if I really want, I can just move everyone back to their own beds and lock the door for midnight nookie. But hey, other times and creativity work to. lots of pre-meditation is the key. It is actually harder to get alone time with teenagers in the home then with little ones because the teenagers stay up and never want to stop talking to parents when parents are tired. So we have to use codes to tell the spouse it is time to escape for alone time away from needy teenagers. but with teenagers to watch little ones and put them to sleep, there are benefits including going to a hotel for alone time.

  9. for those who are curious- there have been other variations but for now- how we fit in a queen bed. the baby is up shoulder level with us parents switching sides for eating. my side of bed, has a baby rail on it. and the toddler is down by my waist at the baby’s feet where I put one of my pillows for him to sleep on. this allows me to touch his head to comfort him and keep him off the baby at the same time. he has his own blanket. dad gets his side of the bed and I try to make as much room for him as possible. he knows his baby boundaries and has never gotten in the babies way. he snuggles with kids if they need it, even baby, and helps with the toddler if I am busy with baby. but as he goes to work early, then I do most of the night shift. sometimes there is even an older kid snuggled at the bottom of the bed in the morning and/or strewn down the hallway. but this isn’t every night and it is a short stage in life. this is marriage and we work together for our family.

  10. Love this article! We make time and find a way for the things that are important to us…sex is no different. If there is a will, there is a way! Emotional intimacy is much more difficult than finding somewhere to do it.

  11. “But I am writing to dispel the myth that cosleeping leads to a sexless relationship”

    Problem is, it’s not always a myth

Leave a Reply to Dakota12 Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *