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?
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...
You can use "crash with someone".
I had no place to stay so I crashed with her.
Although not foolproof, it implies less the act of having sex.
Edit: As it's been pointed out, crashing with someone implies some sort of need. You might be too tired to go elsewhere or not have anywhere else to stay.
Edit 2: Some variants I can think of are "crashing at someone's place" or "crashing on someone's couch". If you just use "crash with someone" you avoid telling exactly where you slept.
The phrases below are often used when small children sleep with their parents in the same bed.
To share the bed together (or) share the same bed
To sleep in the same bed
If you lack a spare room, and a guest needs to spend the night, you might offer to share your bed with him or her. This is often the case between close friends and relatives. I have shared the same bed with a cousin, who is more like a sister to me, and with an elderly aunt who felt scared to be alone in a strange house.
I wouldn't say to an acquaintance, "I slept with my cousin last night" that might be misconstrued as meaning we had sexual intercourse. On the other hand, "We shared the same bed" and "My cousin and I slept in the same bed" do not strike me as being sexual in the least.
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.
The only way to do this is to be explicit. Yes, you can phrase it to reduce the connotation but you cannot eliminate it. The only exception is where societal context would strongly suggest you weren't having sex - i.e. "It was horrible, I had to share the bed with my mum" or "they're the kind of hippy household where the baby sleeps with them".
If you want to talk about sleeping in the same bed but not having sex you need to spell it out, e.g. "She only has a bedsit so we shared the bed; nothing funny happened though".
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.
If you had meant either
- … spending the night as a guest at another's home
- (being a)n overnight guest
then you could use the word sleepover.
The answer by @Rhetorician failed to include the actual verb
To bunk: To stay the night; sleep: bunk over at a friend's house.
which does not exactly meet the requirements of sleeping in the same bed, but if you tell me you are going to bunk over at X's place and I know for a fact that he/she only has one bed, the picture coming to mind is you either sleeping next to that person or on the floor/couch
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.
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.
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".
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
"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.
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.