Rosie Green: ‘The problem with grown-up sleepovers’

Frank revelations from our unmissable sex columnist, Rosie Green (@lifesrosie)

There are some upsides to my marriage falling apart: autonomy over the TV remote; no need to hide new purchases from judgmental eyes; single person council tax allowance. All these have brought me varying degrees of enjoyment, but they are trifling pleasures compared to the joy of a sleepover with someone new. On an excitement level, the prospect of spending the whole night with the new boyfriend makes me more giddy than finding right-size Valentino heels in TK Maxx. For £10.

Rosie Green
Louise Samuelsen

I’ve found that sleepovers in your 40s are next-level in comparison to the ones when I was a kid. Back then they were marred by missing my mother, having to sleep on a ‘mattress’ made up of sofa cushions and fighting the nausea brought on by excess Frazzles at the midnight feast.

When I was married, every night was sleepover night and I took the sharing of a bed for granted. Forget pillow talk, I would climb on to my side of the bed, put my earplugs in, my eye mask on and assume my preferred sleeping position. I would inevitably be wearing some sex-repelling nightwear, too.

But now staying over at my boyfriend’s is a treat, to be savoured like a square of salted caramel chocolate – and it’s made even sweeter by its rarity. Because two people with kids, jobs and social lives require the diarising skills of an executive PA. So when the calendars do collide and I have a whole 12 hours of cuddling, chatting and… well, let’s just say it’s heaven.

A negative though: in the early days of a relationship, I’ve found the ‘sleep’ in sleepover is a misnomer. There are far too many obstacles that make it tricky to get any actual shut-eye. For a start, the sex gets in the way of sleep. Then, I find it’s difficult to nod off when I’m excited, in a strange bed and scared that I am going to snore/do that body-judder thing.

In an ideal world I would shut down all bodily functions for the duration, because they are fraught with the possibility of embarrassment. Take getting up for a bathroom break in the early hours. I find myself feeling around unfamiliar walls for the light switch, while still trying to look vaguely alluring.

Then there are the optics when you have finally crashed out. In the same way 1990s Sinéad O’Connor was possibly the only person to cry beautifully, sleeping attractively seems impossible for most normal people. Worries that flash through my brain like tracer fire include: do I sleep with my mouth open like a carp? Will I talk gibberish or, worse, the truth in my sleep? Do my limbs flail like an octopus on speed?

And don’t even get me started on bodily emissions. If such expulsions occur from either party do you giggle, ignore them or pretend to be asleep? Combine a sleepover with alcohol and all of the risk factors for the above are exacerbated.

Until recently we were both averaging about four hours’ sleep a night and maintained a mutually respectful silence on any indignities. But now we are into double digits on overnight stays there has been some relaxation in best behaviour. And a chuckle is our preferred response to any windy indiscretions.

The final hurdle is what to do when you want to stop cuddling and start sleeping – how do you extract yourself without breaking up the love fug? My answer is Ross from Friends’ ‘hug and roll’ technique. He says you have to wait until your bedfellow drifts off, give them a squeeze (to convey your ongoing affection), then gently roll them away from you as you scoot in the opposite direction. Genius.

The obstacles don’t end once you’ve made it to dawn, though. There’s morning breath to consider. And your reflection in the bathroom mirror. I always imagine myself all Bardot-like with tousled bed head and slept-in eyeliner. The harsh reality is more hair like a troll doll and Alice Cooper mascara streaks.

But on the whole I think he and I are sleep compatible: minimal duvet-hogging; no 747-level snoring. And I like the fact our sleepovers are sporadic. There are good things about making a night together a treat: it keeps the excitement going, maintains independence and, crucially, means you can catch up on actual sleep.

Because it turns out that, just as with Frazzles, you can have too much of a good thing.