'Sleep divorce' couples demand more from a home than man caves, she sheds

Sleep is precious.

You don’t want to go without it, and many couples around the U.S. are finding ways to ensure they get their daily snooze by sleeping in separate bedrooms.

If you think sleeping apart from your spouse is a strange thing to do, it certainly didn’t bother actress and editorial powerhouse Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband Brad Falchuk from going down this unconventional route. Though, their reasons were more for the sake of their teenaged children, according to Paltrow Wednesday in an interview with Jimmy Kimmel.

A survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation survey found that 10 percent of married couples sleep in separate bedrooms completely while up to 25 percent sleep in separate beds. Moreover, a report by News Corp's Realtor.com has called the phenomenon a “sleep divorce.”

To get to the bottom of how prevalent this trend is among current home buyers, FOX Business consulted with a number of real estate experts who know the market and customer demands well.

Woman sleeping in a bed by herself.

Why are couples buying homes with separate master bedrooms?

“In my experience, snoring by one spouse is the main culprit for needing separate bedrooms.  Some older people have medical issues (including equipment) that requires them to have more room,” broker Michael J. Franco of Compass Real Estate wrote to FOX Business.

Steven Gottlieb, an agent of Warburg Realty pointed out that he observed climate control being an issue with clients who requested separate bedrooms.

“I worked with a couple who needed a second bedroom for just this problem. The husband liked the room cold to sleep, or else he’d lie there sweating. Conversely, the wife found that the air conditioner dried out her sinuses so severely that she’d wake up with burning eyes, a headache, and a sore and dried out nose,” he explained.

Michelle Schwartz, a partner at The Agency said that couples wanting to sleep apart is more common than people think. The common culprits for this include different sleep and work schedules, health conditions, snoring issues and restless children.

However, she pointed out that for some, there is a hidden financial reason for having a second master bedroom.

“With prices where they are, it is often really difficult for a couple to be able to afford their down payment. Oftentimes, new homebuyers need financial assistance from family for at least a down payment. Having a secondary master in a home is a great way of providing their financial assister with their own true master, regardless of whether or not they live their full time,” Schwartz revealed.

Home For Sale Real Estate Sign and Beautiful New House.

How much does it cost to add an extra bedroom on average?

“It really depends on the type of property. In Manhattan, going from a classic 6-room to a 7-room on the Upper West Side or Upper East Side could cost you anywhere from $500,000 to $1,000,000 [or] more for that extra room everything else being equal,” Franco said.

Schwartz acknowledged that costs for room add-ons are variable.

“It depends on quality and scale of the construction. I have seen some bedroom add-ons come in at a cost of $260 per square foot, all the way up to $600 per square foot. [It] totally depends on size, scale, finishes & the land build-ability,” she said.

Other options homebuyers can consider include building a guest house or converting an existing garage into an accessory dwelling unit.

Woman unpacking a box in a bedroom.

Can these homebuyers be characterized as rich or are they everyday middle class?

“I guess you would need to define rich. The few experiences I have had with this involved apartments ranging from $4 million on the sale side to upwards of $8 million on the replacement property side,” Franco said regarding the clientele he serves. “These were wealthy clients even by New York standards.”

Schwartz agreed that homebuyers who are requesting second master bedrooms tend to have funds to spare.

“Having two true masters in a property is usually found in higher end homes, as this would typically be a feature in a newer construction home, or a home that has been expanded and extensively remodeled over the years,” she explained.

“Original, more modest homes under $2M can provide space for a partner to sleep in a separate room however it is unlikely to be a true secondary master.”

- Michelle Schwartz, a partner of luxury real estate company The Agency said.

Schwartz added: “It is also important to add that more often than not, in a two story home, secondary master bedrooms are not typically on the same level which poses another set of issues depending on the couple’s needs.”

Gottlieb, on the other hand, doesn’t believe sleeping in a separate bedroom is something reserved for the wealthy.

“I think that this might be a problem that doesn’t discriminate based on socioeconomics, but only people with substantial extra assets or income can afford an entire extra bedroom,” he said. “My aforementioned clients made use of the living room sofa when they could not agree on climate control for the bedroom.”

Why would a couple opt for a separate bedroom instead of a "man cave" or "she shed?"

“If sleeping habits are the real issue, and not just an allocated “separate space,” then an extra bedroom would be ideal on an as needed basis.  If someone in the couple has a bad flu, then sleeping apart on nights like these makes sense too,” Gottlieb offered as possible scenarios.

However, Schwartz said having time to perform individual evening rituals is often a priority for couples.

“By having a separate room to wind down and actually sleep in, you are provided with your own space to make your own. Some couples have vastly different bed times and wake up times, and separating the bedroom can help normalize daily routines,” she explained.

Despite this, Schwartz reaffirmed that separate master bedrooms are primarily used for sleeping.

This luxury home is located in the Lakeshore Historic District just outside the city (Courtesy Trinity Bednarz)


Are children also a factor that plays in the decision for having separate master bedrooms? If so, how?

“If children have sleeping problems, like infants for example, one parent might be in charge of waking up for feedings, diaper changing, or comforting.  If one parent is waking up multiple times per night and the other parent is a light sleeper, then separate bedrooms might be great,” Gottlieb said.

Schwartz noted that the location of the secondary master can often be dictated by whether or not there are children present. However she said that having an extra bedroom at all may be more imperative for couples than worrying about its location.


According to a 2017 report on Realtor.com, a top 10 percent of the market nationwide had active listings with more than one master bedroom. The real estate website’s analysts said that these listings were priced about nine percent higher on average than those with a single master.