Sleep Better

Sleeping with separate duvets

04 Oct 20235.5 min read

It is thought that duvets were first used in China at around 3,000 BC. And it’s more than likely that since that time, people have been fighting over them. Experience suggests that for the last 5,000 years, couples have been complaining that the duvet is too heavy, or too hot, that it’s not big enough - arguing about whose idea it was to buy such an unsuitable tog, and generally turning the bedroom into a war zone.

However, there is a solution to this apparently ancient dilemma: separate duvets. Could separate duvets improve your sleep quality, and also your relationship? Or would you miss the intimacy of sharing the duvet with your partner? And let’s be honest, the idea of dressing the bed with two duvets feels like quite the headache.

Let me help you work out if separate duvets are right for you.

Go big or go to the spare room

We often presume that separate duvets are about the fight over who gets the most cover, yet this could actually be solved in another much more simple way - buying a bigger duvet.

A couple facing away from each other in bed looking angry.

If you sleep in a double bed and struggle over possessing enough duvet, simply buy a king size duvet. A scenario that is more likely to require separate duvets is when one person in the bed is a hot sleeper and the other is a cold sleeper. Sleeping hot is quite a common phenomenon. Well-insulated rooms, some types of foam mattresses and heavy duvets conspire to make some of us overly hot during the night. This problem is particularly acute for women; for two of the four weeks during the menstrual cycle, and maybe more, many women find they feel too hot for sleep. And when menopause symptoms come along, the temperature fluctuations can make sleeping under a duvet unbearable. In this situation, it is recommended to move to something like a bamboo sheet, which is more breathable.

You might be asking “but why would someone put up with such heat and not remedy the situation?”. I have the answer for you. Sleep dictators.

The reign of the sleep dictator

What is a sleep dictator, you might ask.

A sleep dictator is someone who says what time the house goes to bed, what you should do before bed, what mattress and pillows you sleep on, what duvet you sleep under and what time you get up. If you are reading this and recognise the behaviour in yourself, that suggests you might be a sleep dictator. If you are, you need to stop it. If you live with one, encourage them to have a compassionate conversation about creating a sleep environment and a set of nighttime routines that work for everybody.

A man and a woman in bed with the man taking all of the duvet while he sleeps.

The Scandinavian Method

The use of separate duvets by cohabiting couples is often dubbed “The Scandinavian Method”, although it is practised all over most of mainland Europe.

We have touched on the reasons why we would use separate duvets, namely:

  • It stops couples warring over the duvet
  • Allows each person to have their own sleep environment in terms of temperature and materials

If you are a person who likes to roll yourself up in the duvet, all cocooned and snuggled up, then separate duvets even allow you to do this without leaving your partner shivering, angry and duvetless.

So, why wouldn't you have separate duvets? Well, some people feel it creates a lack of intimacy, a space, a gap, a distance between a couple. Me and my wife actually sleep under the same duvet, as neither of us has particular temperature issues, and we like knowing each other is there. There may come a time when we change our mind, but for the moment we are happy with our arrangement. This just proves that it all depends on you and your partner's sleep preferences.

Making or breaking the bed

The other criticism is how two duvets look on a bed. When using, for example, two doubles on a king size bed, the duvets will not fit perfectly over each half of the mattress. There will be overlap in the middle, as well as some unevenness. 

There’s also the added difficulty when making the bed. Some people like to use a top sheet in between the bed sheet and duvet. The function of a top sheet (used more in the US than the UK, but often found on UK hotel beds) is to act as a barrier between the sleeper and the duvet, keeping the duvet cleaner. It is often tucked in under the mattress, keeping the bedding tight and secure. However, you cannot use a top sheet with two duvets as it would negate the point of having separate covers, and would be difficult to secure properly.

In Scandinavia, they will often fold the duvets and leave them on the end of the bed. I personally think it looks OK, but I have worked with people who were prepared to kill rather than dress their bed like this. For them, there is a compromise - simply place a throw on top of the duvets.

A woman making a bed and folding the duvet half way down the bed.

How ‘sleep divorce’ can actually bring people together

An alternative to separate duvets that some people use is sleeping in different rooms, often known as a sleep divorce. This is a horrible description that does not properly explain what is happening. In fact, many people practise this in order to avoid getting a divorce. It would be better described as ‘sleep separation’.

Sleeping separately can help with the issues that separate duvets look to solve, but some people view sleeping in a separate room a step too far. They fear it would be the end of the physical side of their relationship. However, evidence suggests the opposite is actually true and that it often improves a couple’s sex life. This is because it leads to improved sleep - your partner becomes a lot more attractive when you have slept well.

A woman sleeping on her side alone in bed.

The pros and cons of having separate duvets

To help you decide if separate duvets are for you, here is a little recap of what we’ve talked about.

Fewer fights over the duvetLess physical contact
Better temperature regulationLack of intimacy
Greater choice over duvet materialDifficulty making the bed
Better for cocooning-
Improved sleep-

After reading this, if you think separate duvets, or sleep separation is an option for your relationship, then I would suggest you start with a compassionate conversation between you and your partner. Speak with an open mind and an open heart, and hear their point of view on it. Make any compromises that you are both happy with, and give it a go. You never know, this very simple solution may have the power to prevent 5,000 more years of arguments in the bedroom.