Sleep Matters

Once again, the BBC is running a story about how if you value your mental health, you should sleep apart from your partner. Link.

This story concerns two talks, both given as part of the British Science Festival (Sleep After 60: Changes and Challenges in Later Life). The first part is a study done by a Dr Rob Meadows of the University of Surrey (sociology dept). It included 40 couples, and concluded that there is a 50% chance of disturbance if “one [partner] moves in [their] sleep”. In the BBC article there is no mention of time or grouping, and my Ovid-fu has yet failed to return me the article in question. Perhaps it is yet unpublished.

The other half of the article concerns Dr Neil Stanley of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (and somewhat attached to the U of Surrey, as he set up his “sleep lab” there). He reiterates his point (made here, and no doubt elsewhere) that: sleeping together is bad for you, we didn’t do it before the industrial revolution, the Romans didn’t do it, etc.

Without seeing the study methods I cannot comment on how well it was done, although Dr Meadows has been published several times in this area before. Dr Stanley also seems to be well-published, although his focus seems to be more on the urological side of things (disclaimer: this opinion is based on some Ovid / Scholar searches…). However, the 2006 BBC article concerns itself with 8 couples over 10 nights. 80 data points (or 160 some might argue) may be enough, but I’d need to see the statistical analysis to be sure.

My point is, the BBC seem to be taking it as read that it is a good idea to sleep separately, with no more justification than “people did it before the Victorian era”, on the word of a ‘sleep expert’. We need to be given the data, not taking people’s word for it!

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