Two people cuddled together in the center of a soft bed, with their eyes dreamily shut. This is the classic image of a happy couple sleeping soundly, but it doesn’t reflect reality for many couples today. Researchers have found that nearly 30 percent of Americans sleep better when they kick their partner out of the bed. More than 60 percent of adults would rather sleep without touching, which far outweighs the 13 percent who enjoy cuddling. This has sparked a trend of committed couples sleeping in separate beds, but that doesn’t mean that learning how to sleep alone is easy.
If you feel more secure with a loved one sleeping nearby or have enjoyed snuggling up to a significant other for years, you may find it quite difficult to figure out how to get used to sleeping alone. This often strikes when you undergo a major life change, such as taking on the world solo after a death or a divorce, or transitioning from college life with roommates to a quiet apartment all your own. Your struggle may range from short-term sleep deprivation and minor annoyance to a legitimate fear of sleeping alone that requires months or even years to overcome.
Background Noise vs. Silence
If you’re accustomed to sleeping with other people in the house or right next to you, the sudden silence in the house or your bedroom may lead to sleep difficulties. While most sleep experts recommend that you leave the television out of the bedroom, you may benefit from some background noise in this case. A television set turned to a channel that you don’t normally watch and left at low volume could provide a hum of human voices that mimics what you once heard from a full house. You can also download sleep music and play it through your smartphone, a tablet or another electronic device. This will eliminate the glow of the television set, which could interfere with your quality of sleep. You may also consider a white noise machine, but that isn’t quite the same as hearing human voices. If you’re also missing a pet that no longer lives with you, consider getting a dog or cat to fill the void.
Calming the Fear of Sleeping Alone
If you’re trying to figure out how to overcome the fear of sleeping alone, you may have some level of anxiety that stops you from falling or staying asleep. Many people relieve this sleep anxiety by simply granting themselves permission to sleep away from their bed. You can sleep in another room of your home, or add a couch, futon or air mattress to your bedroom.
You can also use deep breathing techniques and meditation to turn off anxiety and ease into sleep. The breathing exercises recommended for general anxiety and panic attacks are quite similar to relaxation exercises for sleep, so you can use these strategies in your daily life as well.
One option is to focus your mind on your feet, mentally relaxing each toe one at a time. Continue to do this for each part of your body, venturing from your ankles to the hair on top of your head. Somewhere along the way, you may forget that you’re scared of sleeping alone and drift into restful sleep.
Finally, you may overcome the fear of sleeping alone by calling someone in your support system just before going to bed. Make sure that you stay active and alert during the day so that you’re tired at bedtime, and then make it a habit to call someone comforting before dozing off. You’ll get that satisfaction of bonding with another person, which can fill the void of your empty bed to some degree. Sleeping with an oversized teddy bear or a stack of throw pillows may work as well.
Look for Assistance
There are also many sleep aids that may help you learn how to sleep alone at night without anxiety or chronic sleep deprivation. While sleeping pills are often addictive and may leave you groggy, there are apps and other resources that will help you sleep more naturally. With time, you may just find that you’re one of the many who prefer to sleep alone.