BY ERIN MCANALLY
Literature on happy couples have filled bookshelves around the world with tomes heavy with the rituals and routines of successful pairings. Whether those habits involve exercise, fresh air, or skincare routines, the common thread is consistency. After all, as the old adage goes, we are creatures of habit.
Good sleep is a huge component of a healthy lifestyle, and there have been scores of studies exploring the best practices for bedtime in order to assure the best rest. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adopting routines like taking hot baths before going to bed, removing media from the bedroom, and reducing caffeine intake are all helpful.
And even though we often associate romance with spontaneity, relationships can benefit from routines as well. We’ll explore some tried and true bedtime rituals that happy couples employ to keep their relationships in great shape. But it is important to remember that building successful routines takes time. Christine Whelan, a sociologist with a focus on happiness, human ecology, and habits at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told The Washington Post, “We all usually make a laundry list for everything we want to do differently and then attempt to change them all at once. That’s a recipe for failure.”
Happy couples ditch their smartphones before going to bed
Many people are addicted to smartphones — so many, in fact, that it’s considered an epidemic. Whether we are scrolling social media feeds or looking at emails that might force us to think about our to-do lists before going to bed, smartphones are not conducive to sleep for many reasons. According to Sleep.org, the light emitted from the screens suppresses the production of melatonin, a helpful component to a good night’s rest. Cell phones can also wake us up with alerts throughout the night.
In addition to disrupting our sleep, cell phones also cause us to lose quality time with our loved ones — clearly not ideal for happy couples. One study from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business set out to determine the effect of “Pphubbing,” or “partner phone snubbing,” on relationships. According to James A. Roberts, Ph.D., one of the study’s publishers, “What we discovered was that when someone perceived that their partner phubbed them, this created conflict and led to lower levels of reported relationship satisfaction.” This, in turn, could lead to personal life dissatisfaction and even depression.
Happy couples leave disagreements outside the bedroom before going to bed
It is inevitable for conflict to arise in relationships, even for a generally happy couple, and sometimes those difficult discussions surface close to bedtime. Some experts think it’s best not to go to bed angry. Marcia Naomi Berger, a psychotherapist and author, told HuffPost, “Do your best to clear up issues well before bedtime, so when you’re ready to turn in for the night you’ll both want to communicate lovingly, in words, tone and actions.”
However, psychologist and dating coach Samantha Rodman told HuffPost, “When you have a good night’s sleep, you can much more easily see your partner’s position and empathize, which means that making up is finally possible.” Whether you clear the air before going to bed or cooling things until the morning, it may be best to keep those conversations away from bedtime. Psychologist Amie M. Gordon wrote for Psychology Today, “If it’s close to bed time, instead of staying up so that you don’t go to bed angry, try distracting yourself with something pleasant for 20 minutes and then going to sleep and seeing if you are still as mad in the morning.”
Happy couples make time to cuddle before going to bed
Some couples like to sleep entangled in an embrace. Others prefer a little more personal space when it comes to catching z’s at night. Even if spooning all night isn’t your thing, many happy couples find that a little bit of cuddling right before going to bed can go a long way towards a happy relationship since, on an evolutionary level, humans crave physical intimacy and touch, as noted by Vice.
Neuroscientist Paul Zak told Vice, “Cuddling induces the brain to produce a chemical called oxytocin. This relaxes us, makes us feel safe around others, and increases our empathic abilities.” This can help deepen the relationship and connection between partners. Oxytocin has even earned the nickname “the cuddle hormone.”
According to Sarah Hunter Murray, Ph.D., a relationship therapist and published sex expert, there is a danger in refraining from cuddling or non-sexual touch. She wrote for Psychology Today, “Avoiding all those other nonsexual touches makes couples less likely to feel sexual desire, because they don’t feel physically close to their partner — a vicious cycle.” Cuddling is clearly a super important factor in maintaining a healthy relationship with a romantic partner.
Many happy couples have a regular routine before going to bed
Brush your teeth. Wash your face. Drink herbal tea. Read a book. Take a hot bath. Whatever your preferred method is to wind down at night, it is helpful in the quest for happy coupledom to have a routine that you perform alongside your partner before going to bed. Adding depth and consistency to a relationship can’t hurt, right?
Psychologist Nicole Martinez told Bustle, “I have had countless couples and individuals speak with me that they think the breakdown of their evening routine was the start of a lack of intimacy in their relationship.” Luckily there are relatively easy ways to set up a routine that works for both partners. A routine doesn’t even have to involve intricate rituals. Simply saying those three important words can be part of the wind-down. Clinical psychologist Bobbi Wegner explained to Bustle, “A vital nighttime routine is to say ‘I love you’ no matter what.”
Happy couples make a joint decision about having a TV in the bedroom
The debate regarding whether or not to keep a TV in the bedroom is an old one. We know that televisions can disrupt sleep, but many people claim that they cannot sleep without the noises of a TV. When you consider the factor that shows and movies can disrupt intimacy between partners, it becomes clear we’ve got ourselves a real conundrum.
That’s why it is important for couples to agree on whether or not they are a TV-in-the-bedroom kind of couple. Every person’s preference is different so it may require compromise to come to a decision. On one hand, it can be intimate for a happy couple to cuddle up and watch a favorite movie before going to bed. On the other hand, however, it can be isolating if only one partner is into it. Silvia Dutchevici, founder and president of the Critical Therapy Center in New York City, told HuffPost that watching news or documentaries before bed can “expose each other to the way they see and understand the world.” But there are also theories that a television in the bedroom leads to less conversation.
Happy couples chat before going to bed
Communication is one of the most important factors when it comes to relationships. It is a necessary element to understanding what is happening in a significant other’s life and is key to an empathic partnership. It is no surprise that happy couples find themselves chattering away to each other as they get ready to hit the hay.
It doesn’t have to be anything profound to qualify as helpful. Sometimes talking about the mundane before going to bed is just as meaningful as discussing longterm life plans or philosophical views. “It can just be a little bit of inane chatter about the latest TV show or office gossip or whatever. The simple act of talking and showing interest in each other is an affirmation of the relationship,” relationship expert Robert Weiss, LCSW, CSAT-S told Bustle. Or the conversation can be of a more intimate nature, which he says “helps them build trust with each other and to feel safe and connected.”
Happy couples clean up the bedroom before going to bed
Who doesn’t love fresh sheets and a clean, airy bedroom? According to a study published by the National Sleep Foundation, about 78 percent of respondents also said they were more excited to go to sleep in fresh-smelling sheets. Additionally, 66 percent of respondents reported a clean bedroom as a key element to getting good rest.
Many happy couples find that sleeping in a tidy, well-kept room helps with a feeling of satisfaction and calm before bed which makes for a more satisfying relationship. The act of routinely tidying up before going to bed can also bring couples together. Clutter can be anxiety-inducing and actively removing unnecessary items from the bedroom can provide immediate relief. In fact, Ilene Rosen, M.D., a sleep medicine-certified physician at Penn Medicine, told Good Housekeeping, “The bed should be a place where you sleep and have sex and nothing else. All of the distractors in your room and certainly in your bed should be cleared out.”
Happy couples leave work outside the bedroom
While it may seem like a good idea to get work issues off your chest by discussing them with your significant other around bedtime, it may not be the best idea. Disconnecting from work is really important, especially for happy couples in the quest for good, restful sleep. If you think about it, responding to a midnight work email from your boss is completely disruptive to your sleep and to your relationship.
Time reported on a study regarding work emails and their effects on spouses. The study suggested that being on call 24/7 regarding work emails not only negatively influenced the mental health of the employee, but also had a “spillover” effect on the employee’s significant other. Leaving the phones and computers outside of the bedroom can definitely improve the situation, but it is helpful to avoid conversations about work in general when winding down before going to bed.
If you are mad at a colleague, getting riled up right before sleep can be detrimental. Avoiding a stress-induced adrenaline rush caused by thinking or talking about work can help maintain the focus on your partner and aid in getting solid rest.
Happy couples go to sleep at the same time
We know a joint routine can be a great way for a happy couple to wind down and prepare for sleep. It is also extremely beneficial if couples can time their bedtimes to coincide with one another’s. For some couples, this is impossible due to work and life schedules, but, generally speaking, when it is possible, a consistent and parallel bedtime is a helpful habit in making steps towards a successful relationship.
Laura Vanderkam, author of I Know How She Does It and What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, told Business Insider, “I realize not everyone can go to bed at the same time as his or her partner, but if you can, it’s a great way to connect and talk about your days.” Couples that go to bed at the same time also run less of a chance of disrupting the other’s sleep patterns when they crawl in or out of bed.
Happy couples cook and eat dinner together before going to bed
Making food together is a great way to connect to a partner before bed. It allows for bonding time as part of a nightly routine that can bring couples closer as they work together. When couples unite, they come together with their own culinary histories (or lack thereof). Communicating about the process of making food can highlight skills and allow couples to learn from one another and alongside each other. And as a bonus, cooking at home has been known to save money.
One study from Cornell University showed that couples who took an egalitarian approach to housework had happier sex lives. So, it seems like a no brainer that if couples share the workload of making dinner together, then the sex is better. That’s probably enough to convince people to cook dinner with their significant others every night. And the further reward of eating the dinner together offers the chance for a happy couple to have a quiet time to chat and reflect on the day in the absence of technology before going to bed, as relationship expert Alexis Nicole White told Bustle.
Happy couples give each other massages before going to bed
We know cuddling can be a great way to build connection to one’s partner. Massages take this to the next level. Taking time in the evening to help each other with aches and pains and to relieve the stress of the day can have some seriously helpful results — not only for the individuals’ comfort but also to help support a deep connection between them. Giving massages can also be a great way to increase communication between partners. Massage therapist Geraldine Abergas told Bustle, “Touch is a way to communicate more honestly as our words can often be influenced or limited, but with touch, the intention is clear.” Setting the mood with essential oils, the right relaxing music, and a tidy bedroom can be helpful when happy couples give a stress-relieving massage to each other before going to bed.
Regarding a couples massage study, Northumbria University lead researcher Sayuri Naruse stated (via Medical News Today), “These findings show that massage can be a simple and effective way for couples to improve their physical and mental wellbeing whilst showing affection for one another.”
Happy couples get intimate before going to bed
It may go without saying but happy couples generally are connecting sexually. Getting it on right before going to bed can be an impactful way to deepen emotional relationships and to help get a great night’s sleep. Every couple is different, so there is no magic frequency to aspire to. But ensuring you take time to fit in that intimacy before getting too sleepy is important.
Relationship expert and author April Masini told Bustle, “Having sex before bed is a great way to have a good sleep and create the kind of connection with your partner that long-term, committed relationships thrive on.” Couples can get into bedtime routines that negate this type of intimacy, especially when there are outside stress factors, so, even if couples can only manage a quickie, it is important for partners to check in with each other sexually before sleeping. Since sex releases dopamine and oxytocin, partners can get a rush that aids in sleep and the feeling of deep connection.
Happy couples go for a stroll before going to bed
Often included in round-ups of the daily routines of successful people, outdoor strolls are an ideal addition to your schedule. While rigorous exercise right before bed is known to negatively impact the quality of sleep people can get (via Harvard Women’s Health Watch), a gentle stroll with a loved one in the hours before bed can do wonders when it comes to creating a healthy relationship . Fresh air and post-dinner movement offer an opportunity for connection. And taking a technology-free breather away from the home and checking out the neighborhood lends fresh perspective and offers the opportunity for intimate conversations.
Additionally, holding hands and keeping pace with each other can offer an intimate physical connection. Researchers say that men often slow their pace as they walk with their female partners, as they can have different natural speeds depending on height and ability. This activity could be as simple as a ten-minute circle around the block before going to bed, but those quiet moments can do wonders for a happy couple’s intimacy.
Happy couples kick the pets and kids out of the room before going to bed
We hold our kids and our pets in the utmost regard. But unfortunately, they can wreak havoc on sleep patterns as well as a couple’s ability to be intimate — and not just sexually.
While there are conflicting reports (because people are very passionate about the topic), it does seem that predominately happy couples kick the pets and the kids out of the bedroom before going to bed. A Mayo Clinic study that examined the effect a pet’s presence had on an owner’s sleep found, “Of the pet owners, 53 percent considered their sleep to be disrupted to some extent every night.” John Sheppard, M.D., the lead researcher on the study, shared, “Every patient has to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of sleeping with pets and make a personal decision about the sleeping arrangements in the household.”
The same goes for sleeping with kiddos. Co-sleeping with children is a controversial topic and is definitely a decision to be made by each parent, but sleep quality and partner relationships just may suffer if kids sleep in the same space (via Parents).
SOURCE: THE LIST