Why Do Married Couples In Japan Sleep Separately?

Why is it common for Japanese couples to sleep separately?

The way people sleep — with others, alone, in beds, on floors — varies widely from culture to culture. Now, a professor of territorial studies has published a book saying that Japanese married couples are unusual because high numbers of them sleep in separate places.

The article below, which was the most read article on Yahoo! Japan’s magazines section, discusses the phenomenon, pointing out that sleeping separately in Japan doesn’t necessarily mean that a marital relationship has gone sour…

From Yahoo! Japan:

Is It Only Japan Where Married Couples Sleep Separately? Japanese Couples Rare In The World

“Many Japanese married couples sleep in separate rooms, and this is seen as an unusual phenomenon even when compared with the rest of the world”.

Or so says a book entitled “A Place Where You Can Be Yourself: A Deeper Look Into Houses and Families As Seen In Territorial Studies”, which looks into Japanese married couples. When the author researched the way that couples slept in a Tokyo apartment building, it appears that a total of 26% slept separately. Furthermore, when limited to those couples over 60, the figure rises to 40%. For those still living with their children, “sleeping separately” levels at around 28%; however, when it comes to households where a child is now independent and lives separately to their parents, the the number of married couples who sleep separately is more than half, at 53%.

According to a survey carried out by Seniorcom that was aimed at people over 50, the percentage of couples in Japan who sleep separately was 40%. In neighbouring Korea, the figure is 19%, and in America it was 14% (2004). In the West, couples sleeping separately is considered the beginning of a divorce, and it is thought proper for couples to “sleep together” in the same room. The high number of elderly couples who sleep separately, and whose children are now living separately, in particular, is a rare phenomenon in the world.

And so why are there so many couples sleeping separately in Japan?

The author of the book, Kobayashi Hideki, a professor at Chiba University Graduate School and Faculty of Engineering, analyses that one reason there are a lot of couples who sleep separately is because there is a tradition of the mother sleeping alongside the infant, and that this is linked to why there is no sense of reluctance to going back to sleeping separately in old age.

Another reason, is that the divorce rate is not as high as it is in the US, where “one in two couples divorce”. In Japan, what is remarkable is that there are cases where even though, for example, a couple may be “finished”, the continue to retain their marital relationship without divorcing. That is to say that in Japan, there are a lot of “familial divorces” where although they are a couple in form, they are emotionally distant from each other.

In Japan, the divorce rate has been more or less 35% in recent years, but the middle-aged generation, where “familial divorces” are common, the number of couples opting for divorce are on the rise. In the past ten years, the number of middle-aged couples who have lived together for more than 25 years who then go on to divorce has doubled. When you look only at couples who have been living together for over 30 years, this number almost triples.

Couples have their own individual circumstances. But still, one strategy to make their marital lives better might be for couples to sleep in the same place.

Comments from Twitter:

ねぎとろ♂@ハウス組立中:

Wonder if it’s unusual to be driven out by the kids, like in our house? w Well, we sleep in the same room, but I’m on a permanently laid-out futon…wife and kids on the bed…(´・ω・`)

てんつく工芸:

I can’t imagine sleeping in separate beds w

けびにゃ=^・ω・^=:

I guess that in terms of environment it is that way, but going a bit further, I think that actually, Japan’s futon culture plays a big role. Because if you’re sleeping on a futon, then you don’t have to worry if you toss and turn in your sleep, you can lie naturally and snore. And then if in the end your snoring is troubling, you just sleep in a separate room.

onon:

In our neighbourhood, including our house, 4 out of 7 couples sleep separately. How the remaining three pairs sleep is unclear. I get the impression that if you’re bringing up kids, then actually there are fewer people who sleep in the same bed.

Rico:

I can’t imagine sleeping separately…If you husband dies, then you really endure the coldness of sleeping alone…I think that’s difficult to swap for the sense of relief you get when you sleep in someone’s arms. Such a pity not to sleep together.

Masa Tanaka:

As far as I know, everyone who sleeps separately is because one of them snores.

きゃっつ:

Look at that. The relationships that Japanese married couples have are strange.

おばらえ:

15 years ago, ever since we became friends, we’ve been good to each other, but we sleep separately. Because he’s so loud! (笑)…Is there a really low percentage of American couples who worry about snoring?

お菊ちゃん:

How about people who are vile to each other but sleep together? w. Don’t assume things! (笑)

Ryuji Yamamoto:

Thing is, they’re sleeping with their children…I just don’t get it.

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  • Akatosh

    first

  • MyMotto

    If your significant other snores it’s not as weird, but I don’t really think that’s the issue…My dad and his fiance (engaged for 7 years) sleep separately every other day I think. Only because he snores so bad, me and my brother aren’t bothered by it so we can be around him while he’s sleep, but she flips the fck out and is ready to strangle him for snoring. It’s hilarious. Since I don’t live with my dad she usually sleeps in what would be my room if I lived there.

    • Boris

      Considered getting help for your dad? I have read that snoring oculd be signs of deeper health problems. Even if it is not, your dad should get it sorted out for ‘her’ sake.

      • MyMotto

        He had surgery recently on his nose, he’s always had breathing problems. It was successful for the most part he just has to sleep with a machine for a while.

  • FYIADragoon

    The point about snoring is a good one. I can imagine that if the man is also routinely involved in Japanese after-hours office culture (drinking, and fried meals to go with it), that the snoring would only become worse. There are ways to prevent snoring or for the wife to medicate herself to sleep regardless of the noise, but the ways to prevent it may be tiresome for the already worn out man, and medication is not something to be regularly done in regards to sleeping habits. So it seems like a logical choice to sleep separately.

  • nqk123

    if you are a light sleeper, snorer, etc that might be a reason y

  • Hakata-man

    I think the person who mentioned futons is correct. It’s very easy to pick up a futon and take it to another room to sleep. Not so easy to do with Western beds.

    • saltynuts

      westerners usually have a couch in the other room. beds aren’t the only place a person can sleep in.

  • Mohamad Taufiq Morshidi

    So 2013 Japan is like 1950’s America?

    Man, i can’t wait for Japanese versions of Pleasantville, Mad Men and Masters of Sex!

  • anon

    Man. Those statistics are kind of discouraging. I don’t want to have a marriage where we sleep separately.

  • ChuckRamone

    Do working schedules have anything to do with it? If the salaryman guy comes home at like 1 AM after working overtime and hitting up the izakaya, maybe it’s better for him to sleep in another room so he doesn’t wake his wife.

    • Bryan Cheron

      The same kind of work culture exists in Korea, but sleeping separately is much less common.

  • Lili

    In my family, dad’s snoring was the main reason my mom took over my room when I left for college. That, and the fact that he would come home from work when she was already asleep, used to drive mom crazy. I don’t think it’s such an unusual thing for couples to sleep separately if one of them is disturbing the other’s sleep.

  • Kiwi

    I guess it really depends, looking at the comments it seems like some Japanese people think it’s weird too.

  • UserID01

    My wife says I snore really, really loudly, but she’s used to it because she had a cat that snored and used to sleep right by her head. So my snoring is comforting/familiar to her. I once had a room mate who snored REALLY loudly. Super, super, super loudly. I tried sleeping in the living room, but it was still disturbingly loud. I think if one person snores that loudly, it might be helpful to sleep in a separate room.

    And also, sometimes people just prefer to sleep in separate beds. Cuddling and snuggling is nice, but I don’t think I’d be very comfortable if I have to be aware of another person’s space in my bed while I’m only semi conscious and rolling around in the middle of the night.

  • Benji Ming

    Sharing a bed is overrated, I think… especially if one of you is snoring or is a light sleeper. When you need a good night’s sleep sleeping separately makes sense. Obviously, it’s a good idea to let a few nights of bad sleep be the cause rather than just saying you prefer it.

  • sakura kou

    if my husband snore I would throw him out the bed room -_- , other then that he will be banned from sleeping alone , I didn’t get married to sleep alone , if I wanted to sleep alone I might as well live alone what is the use of getting married if I will live separately , we can have our own beds but in the same room but sleeping alone in my own married House HELL NO

    • Xman2014

      Just have sex in one room, then sleep separately at night. Problem solved.

      • sakura kou

        No , in my parents house I sleep in my own room , but when I get married sleeping together as parents is a must .
        we can have separate beds but we must sleep in the same room , this is important for family and as parents to sleep on the same room is really important .

        for many reasons , parents room is where they discuss their different opinions their plans in life their kids future , problems , open up to each other , my mam said that she and my dad never sleep the night with out solving out all their problems and they promised each other to never lie to one another and always be honest that’s why their marriage last for 30 years now and so did my grandparents etc , parents having the same room is not only for sex .
        in the house parents room is like the center of everything .

  • Tanechka

    I’m American, my husband is Italian… he has a deviated septum and snores like a fog horn. I many times chose to sleep in a different room. I also co-slept with my babies too. I do have Russian/Turkic ancestry/culture, but I do not think that is so average among Russians. Anyway, I need my sleep too! lol

  • Nishi Hundan

    Why would you want to hear each other fart?

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