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The phrase "sleeping with someone" often means "having sex." What is the origin of this sexual connotation? Is there a non-sexual equivalent of this phrase to express sleeping with someone without sexual intercourse?

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"I am going to sleep at their place." How about "spending the night"? – Lester Nubla Jan 28 '14 at 5:43
Well... If you're going to share a bed, even if you clearly specify that you won't "do" anything, sex will always be the implication to others. – Lester Nubla Jan 28 '14 at 5:47
@Kris A dirty mind is a joy forever – mplungjan Jan 28 '14 at 6:44
@LesterNubla I would say "spending the night" is suggestive as well. I guess these phrases are so often used euphemistically we just jump to those conclusions?! – starsplusplus Jan 28 '14 at 10:50
" why would you do that?" Because you're both tired and there's only one bed, or there's no heat and not enough bedding. Because you're a couple who co-own the bed (yes, that's right, couples don't constantly have sex.) I'm sure an intelligent person with a decent imagination can come up with other reasons. – Jim Balter Jan 28 '14 at 20:52

38 Answers 38

up vote 250 down vote accepted

Well with babies we often say 'to sleep(/be) in the bed with'. As in "our baby sleeps in the bed with us."

This extends to adults. Warning... NOTE the use of THE, 'in the bed' is different than 'in bed'!!! Compare 'I was in bed with him' and 'I was in the bed with him'.

Would any of the following examples imply sex....?

  • I slept in the bed with him.

  • I stayed the whole night in the bed with her.

  • They were in the bed together.

It works because 'the bed' is geographical, but 'bed' has many nuances...

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Yes, yes, and yes. (USA) The only reason it doesn't have a sexual connotation with kids is because...well...they're kids. That assumption of innocence typically does not extend to adults. – cHao Jan 28 '14 at 9:40
@Chao, I can only speak for myself but they don't imply sex. "i was in the bed the whole night with him' almost underlines no sex. – Gamemorize Jan 28 '14 at 10:30
I must add "to bed someone" means to have sex with someone. The speaker must emphasize the 'the'; otherwise, it can easily be missed. – Double U Jan 28 '14 at 19:28
I believe that "a bed" also works. If you say, "I shared a bed with her," you are using a safe idiom. – Dane Jan 28 '14 at 20:58
(USA) This should not be the accepted answer because it doesn't apply to non-native speakers and is ambiguous in writing. Yes, if an American said to me "I slept in the bed with her" without indicating euphemism (wink, tongue-in-cheek), I would probably interpret it as saying that no intercourse took place, but if I read it or if someone said it with an accent, I would probably think they meant to say "sleep with" but didn't know the difference. – David Schwartz Jan 29 '14 at 19:55

I would add context.

"When we arrived at all we could find was a hotel room with a single bed, so we were forced to share one bed".

"We climbed up the mountain, but were surprised by bad weather. It was freezing cold, so we shared one sleeping bag".

"We sleep in the same bed, but that's all".

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Although make love is not dishonorable, the notion 'with the most honorable intentions', should be initially embedded in anybody's mind.

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We passed out together.

We conked out together.

We dozed together.

We napped together.

We shared 40 winks.

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There is a word "cosleeping" (or "co-sleeping", if you'd prefer) which generally applies to infants and their parents, but seems ripe for repurposing.

Alternatively: Cosominating

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Sometimes "sharing sleep" is used in this sense as well. – Kit Z. Fox Jan 28 '14 at 17:28
In my experience, this tends to result in "sharing sleeplessness"... – Floris Jan 28 '14 at 18:17

You could speak of 'sleeping Platonically', or 'Sleeping in a Platonic bed'

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I would say "went to sleep together".

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We shared sleeping quarters, or -- less suggestive still -- We {were forced to / had to} share our sleeping quarters. If the reference to being forced to sleep in the same space stands, then even bed could be used without implying that sex took place.

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This was the original intent of the word 'bedfellows', as in 'Politics makes strange bedfellows.' It is about having to lie next to one another, in the sense of 'You have made your bed; now lie in it.' (They do not mean 'made your bed' by putting on the sheets, they mean 'made up the contents of your bed'.)

You can tell this is not about sex, because such references come from a time when enclosed and heated space was at a premium and people, even at home, but especially in hotels, shared multiple-person beds instead of there being multiple beds in a space, either for compactness, or for warmth.

(Besides the other imagery would paint all politicians as gay.)

You could quaintly revive this, but it may be so cutesy they will just think you are being coy.

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Perhaps, "We literally slept together." The use of the "literally" to mean "very" weakens this a bit, but I thought I'd offer it as another choice.

I agree that with American (Western?) culture as it is, you probably can't avoid the implication altogether, unless the person you're sharing a bed with a child or a relative. It also helps if you give the reason for not getting separate beds.

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Don't blame this on America or on modernness. The polite Hebrew and Greek words for sex are both the result of casting 'bed' as a verb. – Jon Jay Obermark May 1 '14 at 14:32

Can't you just use "we rested for the night together"?

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Placing the words "sleeping" and "with" consecutively is what seems to sexualize the phrase. Rearrange them such that "sleeping with" isn't a part of the phrase and it seems much more innocent. Of course, there will always be those who subconsciously rearrange any phrase regarding sleep. It's safe to say you're out of luck there.
Obligatory Examples:
"I was with her sleeping" vs "I was sleeping with her"
"I was with my brother sleeping" vs "I was sleeping with my brother"

As far as an explanation goes, I'd say that most people recognize to sleep with as one verb, and to sleep as another.

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Stating the bleeding obvious:

  • The origin of the sexual connotation is that in most English speaking societies, people who are "sleeping together" are also sexual partners.
  • As evidenced by the plethora of confusing answers here, there is no commonly accepted phrase to express sleeping with someone without implying a sexual relationship.
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If you're talking about a baby it should be clear there's no implication of sex even if you said something like "we slept together", which normally has strong sexual connotation.

If you're talking about anything but a bed, it should also be relatively clear of sexual connotations. Eg: "We slept in the car while we were on vacation".

If you're talking about sharing a bed with a friend, say when you're on vacation, then you can say:
- We slept in/on the same bed
- We slept in one bed
- We shared the same bed
To highlight that you slept (in the restful sense of the word) on the same bed (location). But because the act of using the same bed together is generally quite an intimate action, there will always be the question on if anything "happened" while you were sleeping in the same bed. However this is as clear as you can be without actually saying "No we didn't do anything!".

These phrases are used commonly to say you've had sex with someone:
- We slept together
- We spent the night together

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A couple of suggestions I can think of:

"We went to sleep in the same bed", I think does not carry any sexual connotation, because it is very descriptive.


"We spent the night in the same bed"


"We took a nightly sleep together."*

* I guess you can't use 'a sleep' as a countable noun to mean 'a duration of time spent sleeping' like 'a nap', and I could not find any near synonyms. Siesta, slumber etc have their specific meanings and won't serve as replacements to 'sleep'. I suppose there is a gap to fill here in the language.

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The statement probably has its roots in the puritanical makeup of middle america have lead to the assumption that anything that appears unseemly probably is. It is also those same roots that meant you did not say things untoward directly instead using a seemingly innocuous phrase like "slept with" as a code for relations. "Good and Moral Folks do not tarry about or spread salacious rumors," as my great grandmother used to say. So the gossip would seem to be about normal activities that were fine to talk about.

For this reason anything that does not explicitly say otherwise could be taken an construed salaciously. So you could say

We slept together but it was strictly platonic.

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This is a good way to go in formal situations, like in writing, in legal proceedings, or in the workplace. But if I said that to a group of my friends... well... Shakespeare put it best: "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." – David Schwartz Jan 29 '14 at 21:30
Your ad hominem attack surprised me-- my intent was to underscore the utility of your answer (above others) because it is appropriate for the formal communications of IT professionals I work with all over the world who are judged by their English. Informal English has quirks they should be aware of, too. I see from your hostility that you typically dismiss those who don't always speak with your expanded vocabulary and intellectualism. Sadly, we must occasionally stoop to their level. For these irrelevant people, some of the other answers may be more appropriate. – David Schwartz Jan 30 '14 at 1:44

To my non-native ears, both

"X shared [a | the] bed with Y"

"X and Y shared [a | the] bed"

have no sexual "subtext"

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You're right if X and Y are not sexually compatible. But if they're hormonal teenagers, it's difficult to believe that the circumstances leading to the "sharing of the bed" were innocent. That's where the sexual context comes in. – David Schwartz Jan 29 '14 at 21:28
Well, if the listener doesn't believe you it doesn't really matter what you say or how you say it... You might even explicitly add "All they did was sleeping" and on the other end they go "Suuuuuure.... " – Alex Jan 30 '14 at 8:40

A rather informal way of saying this, and this has a whiff of slang about it can be:

I bunked with her

Which, to me at least, doesn't suggest sexual contact. In the UK, you might also say:

We kipped in the same bed

Probably owing to the fact that kip, as a noun, means bed, there is no real suggestion of sex here, too.
But generally, I'd simply say what I mean:

We slept in the same bed
We shared the bed, [optional: and slept]

Mind you, if you emphasize "and slept" too much, you may get the odd cynical look from people, generally accompanied with the "ri-ight, you just 'slept'" smirk. Just say you shared the bed in a neutral, factual sort of way, and specify you just slept if you notice people are thinking you didn't get as much sleep as maybe you did :)

Ah well, all in all, the moment you talk about 2 people in the same bed, there's bound to be a couple of people that'll think more of it. A dirty mind is a joy forever, as my parents used to say, and you can't do right by everyone.
If you're worried about people taking it the wrong way, you could just shut them up and turn the "joke" on them. Instead of wrecking my brain trying to find a non-sexual phrase, I'd probably look into phrases concerning jealousy, and what words there are for people who haven't had any in years...

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Joys of going to an all-boy boarding school, field trips, etc. where hormonal kids were occasionally required to share beds at overnight sporting events, etc. The phrase we used then was very effective, and has not been mentioned in this question. I think it is ideal to express 'sharing a bed with no sexual activity'. In the context of a school boys having to tell their story to their parents about a hotel stay where they had to share a bed: "Hey Mom, James and I had to split a bed last night".

  • Jenny and I split her bed and slept.

The split implies the childish act of drawing an imaginary line down the middle, and each keeping to one side (which is pretty much what we did, as kids). Essentially creating two 'virtual' bed partitions, instead of sharing one.

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'Splitting' does the job very well. – Newb Jan 30 '14 at 5:16

Where I live people use "slept over" or "sleeping over" or to "sleep over" etc.

Examples: I slept over John's house. I'm sleeping over Rebecca's tonight.


Sleeping over can cover innocently sharing a bed, perhaps even top and tail, sleeping on the floor etc.

It says here "North American" but we use it here in Britain: Sleep Over

Staying over can be used in lieu of sleeping over.

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You could say

I took a nap at X's place.

Nap has no sexual connotations I think.

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But also it is for short periods only. – Gangnus Jan 29 '14 at 8:16
and also something you do in the afternoon, not at night, and especially not for the whole night. Further, it does not even suggest that X was taking a nap at the same time ;-)... and double-problem, everyone knows not to nap with X'es. – rolfl Jan 29 '14 at 12:59
@rolfl it does not even suggest that X was taking a nap at the same time that's the point! – user13107 Jan 31 '14 at 10:01
If you can swing it, "nap" probably is a good way to go. The problem is that "taking a nap" is very different than spending the night with someone. Because you usually take a a nap alone, during the day, it pretty much excludes the "sleeping in the same bed with someone overnight" situation. But there could be cultural differences (I have to remind myself that the US is not the only English-speaking country :) ) – David Schwartz Feb 4 '14 at 3:08

What about simply substituting "alongside" for "with". Note the difference:

  • I slept with Roxanne.
  • I slept alongside Roxanne.
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I mentioned this in a comment, but I don't think anyone has actually given this answer yet, so...

We call this sharing sleep. It makes it clear you are in the same bed (you wouldn't be sharing if you weren't in the same bed), and rather than saying what you didn't do, it makes it very specific what you did do, which was sleep at the same time the other person was sleeping.

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Who's "we"? I've never heard of this expression before. Sharing + verb sounds a bit odd. Could I say: sharing eat to mean we share food, sharing watch/see to mean we watch the same movie? Is it only used with sleep? – Mari-Lou A Jan 29 '14 at 7:27
@MattЭллен Right, I missed that, so is it a common expression, "to share sleep"? Is it an AmEng term? And how does one share sleep with another person? It's an individual activity, I cannot share my sleep with someone else. – Mari-Lou A Jan 29 '14 at 9:30

This answer is a variant of @Gamemorize's answer which I think is a lot less ambiguous.

  • If sleeping in the same bed, use this exact phrase:

    "He and she slept in the same bed". Notice the lack of "together", replaced by strengthening the location connotation with "the same".

    This is made even more unambiguous if you use any of synonums of "to sleep" which haven't developed sexual connotation that sleeping did:

    "He and she slumbered in the same bed". "He and she caught some ZZZs in the same bed".

  • If sleeping in the same room/house, use "sharing":

    "He and she shared a room/house". Or you can go with previous approach: "He and she slept in the same room".

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+1. It sounds very formal and strategic. – Double U Jan 29 '14 at 2:21

I believe that the closest you can get is "slumber." If you say, "I slumbered with him," you avoid the euphemistic idiom. There are many other fine suggestions for being clear that you shared a bed, but using "slumber" instead of "sleep" safely allows the same sentence construction. The downside of using "slumber" is that the word is less common and may strike some as archaic.

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Funny, I always use slumber in tandem with blissful, which in turn does suggest you have had a better night than usual :) – Elias Van Ootegem Jan 29 '14 at 9:14

As several respondents have pointed out, there are several phrases that might do the job, although none of them is foolproof to someone who is inclined to imagine sex whether it is involved or not.

An alternative to the phrase you are looking for is to go the opposite direction from being completely explicit about your arrangements: Consider it none of anyone else's business, a.k.a. too much information, and decline to refer to it at all.

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Thanks. I agree for the most part. Though, there are certain exceptional times. Like the time when I went to Washington, D.C., with my 8th grade class. I got a hotel room with two beds. My roommate and I each got our own bed. Other kids weren't so lucky, and a group of girls had to sleep together on one bed. Then, we had to write a report on it. – Double U Jan 28 '14 at 20:01

You could just say nothing went down in plain English. For example, The biblical story of King David mentions his nurse Abishag, and lays it out very plainly that they slept in the same bed, but didn't have sex. She just kept him warm at night.

1Now king David was old and stricken in years; and they covered him with clothes, but he gat no heat. 2Wherefore his servants said unto him, Let there be sought for my lord the king a young virgin: and let her stand before the king, and let her cherish him, and let her lie in thy bosom, that my lord the king may get heat. 3So they sought for a fair damsel throughout all the coasts of Israel, and found Abishag a Shunammite, and brought her to the king. 4And the damsel was very fair, and cherished the king, and ministered to him: but the king knew her not.

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Bundling, tarrying or, in some parts of the US at least, boarding traditionally referred to "sleeping with someone" without sex.

Traditionally, participants were adolescents, with a boy staying at the residence of a girl. They were given separate blankets by the girl's parents and expected to talk to one another through the night. The practice was limited to the winter and sometimes the use of a bundling board, placed between the boy and girl, ensured that no sexual conduct would take place.

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I think the end of that article sums it up pretty nicely: "See also [...] Non-penetrative sex" =D – Christian Jan 30 '14 at 20:17

To answer the origin question: I'd presume it's simply because, in our relatively affluent American society, it's uncommon for folks above the age of puberty to share a bed with anyone they aren't romantically involved with. The main exception I can think of is when sharing a hotel room for economy's sake. So the phrase is rarely needed, hence rarely used, except as a euphemism... and the latter becomes a possible meaning unless there's some reason to believe otherwise. Whether it's the assumed meaning or not depends on knowing more about the individuals.

The only reliable workarounds are to be either more vague, or more explicit, about the arrangements. "I shared a hotel room with him", because it doesn't focus specifically on the sleeping arrangements, mostly avoids raising the question. Likewise the suggested formulations of "I stayed over" (a bit safer than "I stayed the night", for no very good reason), "I crashed at Karen's place", "He lent me his guest room", and so on. Obviously any of those could have involved sex before, during, or after, but they either avoid focusing on bed arrangements or suggest separate beds. And they avoid the specific formulation "sleep with" which is most strongly associated with sexual activity.

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In my experience, hotel rooms are strongly associated with illicit activity (romantic affairs, prostitution, pornography) and most Americans would very much try to avoid disclosing the fact that they shared one with a member of the opposite sex altogether. You wouldn't, even for economy, share a room with someone you didn't trust, and the perception is that if you trust them enough to share a room, you could be sleeping with them. But otherwise, I agree, you either have to be more vague or more explicit in order to avoid sexual connotations. – David Schwartz Jan 29 '14 at 20:56

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