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sleep troubles/partner's sleep


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My partner and I are both graduate students in the sciences. She's been sleeping really irregular hours, sometimes working until 5 am. I function best maintaining a fairly consistent schedule and getting 7 or so hours of sleep per night. I also sleep lightly. So when she comes home from lab at unpredictable hours and is moving around our apartment and lights are on, even with earplugs and the door closed I wake up. I end up feeling resentful. Tonight I've only slept 3.5 hours due to this issue. In her lab group she gets away with catching up on sleep at whatever time happens to suit the schedule she's keeping, but in my lab I'm accountable for being at meetings or being around lab to help lab-mates during the day, and I also run a student org with various commitments. So I can't just sleep during the day if I slept poorly that night. She is not really hearing me out when I ask her to try to keep a more typical schedule for my benefit, and I can understand the pressure of grad school making her feel like she needs to work however is most effective for her. What can I/we do? I'm so tired...

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Your biggest problem is that your partner isn't really working with you. So, rather than asking her to change her schedule, which is a difficult change, ask her to change her approach to coming home. You say you can't sleep when she is "moving around and the lights are on." Ask her to be more quiet. Get more lamps, and night lights. Try to get her to understand that she is waking you up. And if she does come in loudly, rather than just toss and turn, make sure to actually get up and explain that she is being really loud. Sometimes its hard to gauge what is loud to someone who is awake vs what is loud to someone who is trying to sleep. 

Get a table fan that is loud. If you fill your room with white noise, it makes it easier to not wake up from noises outside. It might take some getting use to , but it definitely helps. We have an older version of this fan http://www.amazon.com/Holmes-Blizzard-8-Inch-Oscillating-Table/dp/B000J07RMU/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1464959291&sr=8-2&keywords=holmes+blizzard+fan. And it is awesome. 

Employ the use of a low dose sleep aid. There are many that are non habit forming and you can do some research and find which one is best for you. 

And as a last resort, if you really can't get her to be any more quiet, or try to help you with a more consistent scheduling, do you have a friend or family member's couch that you could crash on once or twice? As a message, not a solution. Perhaps seeing that you would rather sleep elsewhere than not get sleep due to her being noisy at all hours, she would be more open to finding other solutions. 

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@sjoh197 has given you some great advice. To this, I would just ask whether the two of you live together full-time because, if you don't, then the obvious solution is to spend fewer nights together. If you do live together, you may want to ask your gf to sleep elsewhere one or two nights a week so that you don't have to sleep on a friend's couch and can get the sleep you need. I don't know that using a sleep aid is the way to go as those can be addictive... But perhaps you could develop a different nighttime routine where you go to bed earlier so you're able to get more sleep before your gf comes home and interrupts you?

Honestly, @justjen, I'm wondering if some of the communication issues about sleep are emblematic of other communication issues in your relationship. My partner and I have very different sleep schedules and they also sleep much more soundly at night than I do. What helps for us is that we don't live together so, whenever I need a solid night of sleep, I can just stay at my place. But, my partner also totally understands that they wake me up with the littlest of things and there's a lot of check-ins about whether I'm getting the quantity and quality of sleep I need. When I'm not, then we stay at our own places for the night, rather than together. I miss them but I also really like getting an uninterrupted night of sleep!

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