Bed-Sharing in Couples Is Associated With Increased and Stabilized REM Sleep and Sleep-Stage Synchronization
Young healthy heterosexual couples underwent sleep-lab-based polysomnography of two sleeping arrangements: individual sleep and co-sleep. Individual and dyadic sleep parameters (i.e., synchronization of sleep stages) were collected. The latter were assessed using cross-recurrence quantification analysis. Additionally, subjective sleep quality, relationship characteristics, and chronotype were monitored. Data were analyzed comparing co-sleep vs. individual sleep. Interaction effects of the sleeping arrangement with gender, chronotype, or relationship characteristics were moreover tested.
As compared to sleeping individually, co-sleeping was associated with about 10% more REM sleep, less fragmented REM sleep (p = 0.008), longer undisturbed REM fragments (p = 0.0006), and more limb movements (p = 0.007). None of the other sleep stages was significantly altered. Social support interacted with sleeping arrangement in a way that individuals with suboptimal social support showed the biggest impact of the sleeping arrangement on REM sleep. Sleep architectures were more synchronized between partners during co-sleep (p = 0.005) even if wake phases were excluded (p = 0.022). Moreover, sleep architectures are significantly coupled across a lag of ± 5min. Depth of relationship represented an additional significant main effect regarding synchronization, reflecting a positive association between the two. Neither REM sleep nor synchronization was influenced by gender, chronotype, or other relationship characteristics.
Depending on the sleeping arrangement, couple's sleep architecture and synchronization show alterations that are modified by relationship characteristics. We discuss that these alterations could be part of a self-enhancing feedback loop of REM sleep and sociality and a mechanism through which sociality prevents mental illness.