Hooking up with someone new is always an exercise in the unknown, but ideally in a positive way; the same cannot be said for the aftermath. Sometimes, though, spending the night at someone else’s place is unavoidable. Maybe you’re looking to give the whole “intimacy” thing a whirl, or maybe you just fell asleep by mistake. Now it’s 2 a.m. on a Wednesday, a virtual stranger is snoring blissfully beside you and you’re sweating under their comforter, praying that there’s a cat hiding somewhere to explain why exactly everything is covered in hair. Even a normally good sleeper, under these harrowing circumstances, might be thrown for a loop.
Call me a sexual Grinch if you must (actually, sorry, do not call me that), but I’m not a big fan of the “adult sleepover.” I like spending my unconscious hours at my apartment, because that’s where I keep all the clear liquids I pat on my face at night, and I don’t like touching someone else’s feet with my feet while I try to drift off. I asked sleep specialist and psychologist Wendy Troxel if there was anything that could be done for the sake of one’s REM cycle, sanity, and any budding relationship between with a sexual AirBnB host.
According to Troxel, a good night’s sleep out on the town can actually be fostered by healthy nocturnal habits at home. A solid foundation of sleep hygiene, like avoiding excessive stimulant usage, going to bed around the same time every night, and getting enough sleep on a nightly basis, makes it easier to maintain good habits away from home. “Try and find some sort of schedule that maps onto your usual schedule is a good thing,” Troxel told VICE. “Maintain some level of a consistent routine, like you do at home, because these are things that help create a sense of safety, predictability.” That could mean packing an overnight bag, adhering as closely to a set bedtime as possible, or, again, listening to a podcast like you do every night because you can’t be alone with your thoughts. Essentially, develop a before-bed routine and then make it portable—sure, it’s not super hot to lug a 12-step skincare routine and an oil diffuser to a first date, but some cleansing face wipes and lavender hand lotion could be a good on-the-go analog.
Even if something serious relationship-wise (or a repeat performance) isn’t on the table, it’s worth being assertive about sleep-related needs. “Being able to voice what is good and healthy and a good self-care practice is fundamental,” Troxel said. “We all need to stand up for our rights and our need to sleep. I'm a better person, I'm a better partner, I'll be nicer to you tomorrow, if I get some sleep.” It's OK to not be low-maintenance or coy about a sleepover, whether that means asking your host to close their blinds or packing a toothbrush and contacts case when it seems reasonably sure they'll be DTF. In fact, why not keep a manual toothbrush and a few other essentials handy all the time? This strategy creates more plausible deniability if someone tries to side-eye your level of overnight preparation, even if it is kind of like a guy storing a condom in his wallet before he heads out to the grocery store or an ICE protest because “you never know.”
Troxel also shared a piece of advice that might give some people pause: If all else fails, get out of bed and grab some reading material. “One of the best things to do if you’re not able to fall asleep is to basically give up,” she said. “If you’re keyed up, with hormones like cortisol pumping through you, give yourself the chance to settle and get sleepy and return to bed, instead of lying there awake and in agony.” She recommended reading a book or magazine until the urge to snooze hits, which is generally good advice… but also falls under the umbrella of Bold Moves when spending the night with a new person. Are you sure you’re ready to have a conversation with someone’s roommate about why you’re using your iPhone to read Outliers on their living room couch in the middle of the night? Are you positive?
I still have two sleep tricks that I deploy in emergency overnight situations, like when it’s raining and I don’t want to pay Lyft’s surge fee. I’m partial to this “brilliant military technique” (seems real) from this Independent story, which involves systematic muscle relaxation, deep breathing, and a series of visualization exercises that include imagining myself in a canoe on a lake and then lying in a velvet hammock in a pitch black room. I’m also not above throwing on a podcast to help me nod off. If you are callous enough to put in headphones and cue up ‘Reply All’ while someone who just saw you naked watches in horror, I recommend this strategy, especially if it’s something you already do on a nightly basis.
For what it’s worth, research has shown that getting the right amount of sleep can increase men’s and women’s sex drives, while getting too little can suppress sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone, according to Psychology Today. Though honestly, if the person you’re sleeping with doesn’t care how well you actually sleep unless it affects them, it’s time to find another bedfellow. They don’t deserve to get woken up in the morning by you shuffling around, trying to find your headphones, wallet, and both of your socks (no one night stand participant has all four…) before you slink off into the waking world.
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