Here's an Ingenious Way to Co-Sleep With a Crappy Bed Partner

Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

When my boyfriend moved into the apartment my 95lb Doberman Pinscher and I shared, bed space was suddenly at a premium.

Human Ross, dog Rowan, and I barely fit comfortably on a queen-size mattress; turning every night into a battle for territory. Of course, the dog usually won. Unlike Ross and me, Rowan had reinforcements: long nails, foul breath, twice as many legs… Still, with some creative problem-solving power and strong senses of humor, the relationship survived.

And finally, my now-husband and I have found a solution that works for all three of us. We call it "Mega Bed." Let me explain.

Everybody has their own sleeping style

Before Ross moved in, we enjoyed many different sleeping quarters: a twin extra long, a two-person tent, a lumpy futon, a full-size air mattress, a fold-out couch, two economy seats during a transpacific flight...
During cohabitation, however, settling into a routine with my male companions was a challenge. Rowan is essentially a caricature of his breed. He's got every classic Dobie quality -- large, protective, clean -- but they're all exaggerated to the nth degree.

He's not just protective, he has severe attachment issues. When I brought him home, he wouldn't even let me close the door to the bathroom while I showered. I had to stay in his line of sight at all times during the early months. My No. 1 rule was no dogs on the bed; which he was happy to comply with as long as he could see me from his perch on the couch in the next room.

But one afternoon, Ross invited Rowan onto the bed for a nap. The dog was thrilled... and hasn't slept on the floor since.

Meanwhile, the differences between Ross' and my sleeping habits were coming into sharp focus. I like a softer bed and warmer environment; while Ross prefers a firmer base and cooler temperatures. Something had to be done.

Sleep deprivation will adversely affect your relationship -- and your life

Most people don't realize just how dangerous sleep deprivation really is.

The CDC found drowsy driving was responsible for an estimated 72,000 auto collisions in 2013; while WebMD reports that chronic sleep deprivation increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes. It can also lead to weight gain in women: The Guardian reported on a survey that found women who got less than five hours of sleep per night were a third more likely to gain at least 33lb than those who slept longer.

But, I get it. Having separate beds, which would solve any sleep deprivation issues caused by a noisy, restless partner, carries quite a stigma. If you told your friends you were sleeping in separate beds, chances are they'd be concerned your relationship was in trouble. After all, nearly all breakups for live-in partners start with crashing in different rooms. But really, it all comes down to why you're sleeping in separate beds. Are you doing it because your sleeping habits are suffering -- or because your relationship is?

If you and your partner think sleeping in separate beds will only hurt your relationship, you may be surprised to learn that sleep deprivation can affect your libido, too. In a study originally published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, researchers found that older men with poor sleeping habits had lower testosterone levels than those with a regular bedtime routine. Fatigue can also make you a total grumpster. And when has bickering ever strengthened a relationship?

Be honest. Do you truly get a good night's sleep when your partner is lying right beside you? Unless you are both stationary, silent sleepers who prefer the exact same temperature and mattress firmness, chances are at least one of you does not. And if your partner is a blanket thief, it's probably you.

You're gonna need a bigger boat (or bed, if you live with a Dober-shark)

Ross and I started sleeping in separate beds because we needed more space. But we didn't want separate rooms -- so we invented the Mega Bed.

Here's how it works: First, we pushed together two queen-size mattresses (credit goes to The Office’s Dwight, who created Mega Desk while Jim was on paternity leave). I got matching bedding for both beds, and my husband is eventually going to build a single headboard and platform frame that will fit both mattresses.

Mega Bed has allowed us to customize our bedding in a way that promotes deep sleep. My appreciation for a soft mattress and warm nights means I outfitted my side accordingly with a pillow topper and lots of blankets. Ross' half of Mega Bed has fewer blankets and no topper.

Mega Bed gives us space without total separation

The greatest risk to the separate-beds arrangement is losing the intimate connection you have with your partner. You may worry that by getting separate beds, you will slowly transition into nothing more than roommates.

But with Mega Bed, if we want to cuddle all Ross or I need to do is roll over. And if we're upset, all we have to do is roll back. Sure, it's not as dramatic as getting up, grabbing a pillow, and stomping to the couch, but it still sends a message.

Like any aspect of a relationship, sleeping in separate beds can work if you actually put in the effort. At the end of the day, it's everything leading up to bed that matters most, anyway. In fact, even if you share a bed, you still need to put in the work to maintain intimacy. If you don't, it's entirely possible to sleep in the same bed and still be a million miles apart.

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Emily Hugo is a freelance writer and dog lover with a degree in journalism and anthropology from NYU. She will never sleep in a regular ol' bed again.