The evening represents many things to different people. It’s a time to unwind, a time to catch up on sleep, and for many couples, it’s the most opportune time to connect with one another. And since we know that there’s an inextricable link between sleep and the success of a relationship (yes, there are even sleep habits that can mess with a relationship!), it’s important to implement practices that help you and your partner thrive before bedtime.

Here are the sleep and bedtime habits that characterize successful relationships.

Happy Couples Talk About How Their Days Went

It sounds straightforward because it is — simply talking to your partner, and looking them straight in the eye while you do it, can foster an authentic sense of bonding. Plus, if you’re parents, it might be the only time of day that feels uninterrupted.

Before we actually go to sleep we tell each other the best and worst part of our day and then we pray. Just to thank God for the good stuff, and ask for help with the tough stuff. We’ll ask for protection over Willow [our 1-year-old daughter] and pray for friends or family who are sick or sad,” Lauren DeMatteo, a 31-year-old educator from New Jersey who’s been married for five years, says.

Tony Lee, who recently moved in with his partner, agreed, adding, “We make sure to say ‘I love you’ before we go to sleep.” Even the simplest conversations at night are an affirmation of the relationship.

They Don’t Feel Pressured To Snuggle All Night

There’s an episode of Sex and The City where, after Carrie and Aidan get back together, she feels threatened when they wake up on opposite sides of the bed. That fear, while understandable, is unfounded.

Lots of happy couples have varied sleeping positions — holding hands, with their backs touching, or even, in some cases, sleeping in entirely separate beds. After all, if sleeping in another room when one partner is snoring can help the other partner sleep better, why not do it? “We sleep in separate rooms when one of us is snoring, and after 32 years of marriage, I can say that it works,” says Lori R., a 57-year-old retired non-profit executive living in New York City.

They Try To Wind Down At The Same Time

Sleep timing is an issue for many couples, points out Robert Taibbi, LCSW. “One person may go to bed early, and the other is a night owl. They miss that snuggle time in bed, then the other person comes in later, makes noise, turns on lights, et cetera.” To mitigate that conflict, Taibbi suggests trying to build a clear ritual for each evening, like reading in bed.

“We go to bed together — as long as our schedule permits — and it is truly the best ritual. Even if I read with my night light, it’s the act of both ending our days together that is nice,” says Dana T., a 55-year-old office manager from New Jersey, who has been with her partner for ten years. And while it may not always be possible to go to sleep at the same time, it’s a strategy that’s worth trying if you’re able. If you can’t physically be next to your sleeping partner (perhaps you need more light to read, or you have to finish some work outside the bedroom), you could also try brushing your teeth at the same time to mimic the “going to sleep together” effect, as Dr. Kurt Smith, Psy.D., has suggested.

They Do Something Intimate Before Bed

Sexual intimacy is important for many romantic relationships: Studies show that sexual satisfaction is linked to emotional intimacy and helps partners bond over time. But sometimes, you’re just tired… or your partner isn’t physically there. Luckily, sex isn’t the only way to experience romantic intimacy.

“I’ll FaceTime with my partner every night when we’re brushing our teeth,” says Micaela Aaronson, a 26-year-old financial analyst from New York City, who is in a long-distance relationship. “Getting ready for bed with someone is filled with such sweet moments, and we didn’t want to give that up. It is important for us to find a way to still do it together.” 

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