What to Do?
If a couple has strong disagreement about reading in bed because one has a lot of trouble sleeping because the other is reading and the reader really needs or wants to read, what can they do? Among the couples I interviewed, there were people who learned to sleep with the light on and the partner reading. Some readers of books or magazines found reading lamps that focused the light more narrowly, so there was less light coming into the facial area of their partner. A bigger bed was of help to a few, with even a few inches or a foot of greater separation making the light, sounds, and movements of the reader less of a problem for the other partner. In a few couples the partner of a reader made changes in how he or she slept, for example, wearing a sleeping mask over the eyes or covering ears and maybe eyes with pillows. One couple had two bedrooms. The reader might start out most nights in bed with her partner, so they could cuddle and talk. But then the reader would get up and go to the other bedroom and read as long as she felt like it, and that is where she would eventually asleep. Some couples agreed to a ration of reading for the reader–for example, two pages or a chapter after they were both in bed and the non-reading partner was ready to sleep. And finally, some readers gave up reading in bed, and read somewhere else in the house until they were ready to go to bed.
This blog focuses on issues about light, sound, and bed movement, but I know that some non-readers resented the reading because they were not getting the attention and possibly the touching and cuddling they would if their partner was not reading. Possibly some partners who read are fine with not giving their partners so much attention and cuddling. But among obvious compromises is for the reading partner to give the other partner their attention and cuddling at some point every night, maybe after reading or maybe before reading, but at least for a while saying in actions and maybe words to the non-reading partner some version of, “You are important to me. I love you. I like being with you.”