Why do Danes use separate duvets for sleeping?

There’s a surprising amount of history, science and culture bound up in the different approaches to co-sleeping, both in Denmark and around the world.

Why do Danes use separate duvets for sleeping?
Photo: Hotel Mayfair

When I told people I was moving to Denmark, many mentioned hygge, the weather, and pickled herring.

They didn’t mention… the duvets.

As a British guy moving in with my Danish girlfriend in Copenhagen I was shocked to see that on our bed were two separate duvets.

To her, this was totally normal, but to me it made me question the strength of our relationship: Why wouldn’t we have the intimacy of sharing the same duvet together?

Other non-Danes I spoke with thought it was peculiar (or weren’t aware) and most Danes (and internationals from northern Europe) said they’d never really thought about it: “Of course it makes sense to have separate duvets”.

This perplexed me, and thus began an investigation into these different approaches to co-sleeping, which ultimately led to starting the What The Denmark podcast with my co-host, Danish TV journalist Josefine Volqvartz.

Sharing beds through the ages 

For most of human history (in cold climates), whole families would share the same bed to preserve warmth and save on space. It was totally normal for multiple generations (and sometimes servants or strangers) to snuggle up together.

In a fascinating conversation with Dr Hilary Hinds, author of A Cultural History of Twin Beds, I learnt that around the 1900s in the UK there became a health scare that said sharing the same bed was unhygienic.

As such, modern, well-to-do couples started having separate (twin) beds – it was seen as vogue.

After World War Two the role of women changed (in the UK at least) to focus more on being the homemaker. This meant creating an environment that conveyed warmth, cosiness and stability when the man returned home from work.

Separate beds were seen as prudish and signaled that the sexual dimension of the relationship was failing. 

This made large, shared duvets for the couple the norm that proliferated through society and popular culture.

Photo: David Dolyak

Separate duvets = a failed marriage?

For reasons still unclear, the concept of having two duvets on one large bed never caught on in the UK.

This sounds crazy once you see it in practice, but I can’t overstate enough that before I stepped into my Danish girlfriend’s apartment, I had never even considered it was possible that people could have two separate duvets on one double bed.

It was like part of my brain had learnt from growing up in the UK that the universal law is one duvet per bed and so when you have a single bed, you have a single duvet and when you have a double bed, you have a double duvet. The end.

Upon seeing two separate duvets on my girlfriend’s bed, the only thing my brain could compute was that this meant separate beds, and therefore we had become a loveless couple who don’t sleep together!

For people who have grown up seeing couples have multiple duvets on one bed, it’s a completely different framing.

Which approach is best?

With my bedroom paradigm shifted, this then led to the question of which is the best style for sleeping together?

Well, it turns out that there’s a lot to consider.

Sleep quality

From a scientific perspective, sharing a duvet is bad news for your sleep quality. 

I spoke with sleep expert Dr Neil Stanley, who has been researching the topic for years, and his summary is that couples sharing a bed who want to get the best night’s sleep possible should have separate duvets.

The majority of sleep disturbance comes from being at an uncomfortable temperature, or having a duvet pulled away (aka duvet wars) and so each person having their own duvet is by far the best route.


The shocked reaction of most people who have only encountered shared duvets is that it feels… unromantic.

You might not get the best night’s sleep, but you are unequivocally in union with your sleep partner. 

Everyone I’ve spoken to who has never heard of shared duvets thinks it means it will signal that they love their partner less, and so they instinctively shy away from the idea.


Admittedly it was my podcast co-host Josefine who brought this up, but the look of a duvet is a consideration. Many people believe that one large double duvet over a bed looks much better than two singles. 

As such, they may be willing to have a double duvet (or covering) so that the bedroom looks much nicer.

Others have said there’s more flexibility in sleeping positions with a large duvet and so enjoy it for that.


In researching the topic I travelled to Denmark’s largest bedding company Jysk to understand the options available to customers.

Over 90 percent of the duvets on offer (and, importantly, duvet covers) are for single duvets, which means it’s much tougher to get the double duvet you want.

File photo: Kurt Nielsen/Ritzau Scanpix

Contrast this to the UK and it is almost impossible to buy adult single duvets. Sleep expert Dr Neil had to travel from the UK to Amsterdam to get his own (single) duvets.

Danes and non-Danes who have made the switch

Through the multiple interviews done during this research I spoke with a variety of people who have turned their back on historical precedence, overcome the availability issue and now use the separate/shared approach. 

People seem to favour shared duvets for the aesthetics or freedom it affords, whereas others have switched to separate for sleep quality purposes. Interestingly, most people who try separate duvets don’t feel that it compromises the intimacy.

Around the world it seems that other northern European countries (Switzerland, The Netherlands, Sweden etc.) typically have the separate duvet approach, especially elder generations.

Why do Danish couples sleep with separate duvets?

All this leads us to answering the question of why. No definitive answer exists (that I can find), however from the hours of research we’ve invested in the topic we can speculate on the following:

  • “That’s the way it’s always been”: as with a lot of things in life, we rarely question things that seem so normal to us.
  • There’s not as much “prestige” in having a large bed: unlike, for example, in the UK, which was much more class based and so those who were rich had the means and motivation to display their wealth through their large personal bed (which would have one duvet).
  • It’s cold in the north: Denmark, and other northern European countries where the practice is common are typically colder. As such, the stakes are higher if someone isn’t covered by a duvet.
  • Danes (and other countries) are more practical in their approach to co-sleeping – ensuring each person has enough duvet to sleep comfortably.

If you’re interested in hearing more about this topic or want to hear the final studio-produced podcast episode then you can listen (for free) by finding What The Denmark on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your preferred podcast platform.

Sam Floy runs a professional podcast agency in Copenhagen called Cofruition. He is the co-host of What The Denmark: a podcast that explains things that seem peculiar as an outsider in Denmark. The show launches on Thursday April 8th and is available to listen to free on all podcast platforms.

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What are the hardest things about moving to provincial Denmark as a foreigner?

Foreign residents who have moved to lesser-known regions of the country share their experiences of life in provincial Denmark. 

Provincial regions of Denmark want to attract skilled foreign workers, but what are the biggest challenges faced by relocators?
Provincial regions of Denmark want to attract skilled foreign workers, but what are the biggest challenges faced by relocators? Photo: Signe Goldmann/Ritzau Scanpix

Editor’s note: there are of course also many positives about living in provincial Denmark, and people based in those areas were happy to share those too. Read what they said in this article.

When Lea Cesar moved from Slovenia to the town of Ringkøbing in 2011, she didn’t know much about the region of western Jutland. 

“In the beginning, I didn’t like how difficult it was to find a job as a foreigner in a smaller city,” Cesar told The Local. Back then she didn’t speak Danish, and that made it hard to find a job that matched her skills and qualifications. 

“I later took it as a challenge and started my own company,” Cesar said, opening a cafe and bakery called Baking Sins in central Ringkøbing. Once she’d taken things into her own hands, she thrived and came to love her town. 

“I love the small shops with handcrafted products,” she said, drawing a comparison to the big shops and chain stores of larger cities. “The culture here is totally different. Ringkøbing is a smaller town, but feels big enough for me.”

Considering the pros and cons of a life in lesser-known parts of Denmark has never been more relevant, as the Danish government amps up efforts to decentralise Denmark and municipalities look to internationals to balance out declining populations. 

READ ALSO: Is it easier for foreigners to find a job outside Denmark’s major cities?

There may be fewer job opportunities, depending on your industry and Danish language skills

Fewer job opportunities, Cesar said, is one of the primary differences between living in a town like Ringkøbing versus a larger city. 

“There aren’t as many companies here searching for employees that only speak English,” she said. “I think it’s important to speak at least basic Danish; otherwise it would be hard to come here.”

Antoniya Petkov, originally from Bulgaria, faced similar challenges finding work when she moved to Ringkøbing several years ago after her husband accepted a job at a wind energy company in the area. 

“Most of the job opportunities in my field in the area require a high level of Danish language, which I am still working toward,” Petkov told The Local. 

In the meantime, she continues to commute to Aarhus, where she works as a technical recruiter in systematics at a large Danish software firm. “However, there are a lot more opportunities for developers, engineers and people with a technical job profile where Danish isn’t required,” Petkov said.

Even in technical roles, Danish proficiency helps. 

Victor Balaban, originally from Moldova, moved to Vejle while working at Siemens Gamesa. Although he said there are plenty of job opportunities in the region, Balaban said his options would be significantly more limited if he didn’t speak Danish.

Candice Progler-Thomsen, an American living in Lolland, said Danish proficiency is “almost essential” to find a job in the municipality. “There will be greater job opportunities here for individuals who learn Danish,” she told The Local. 

And, because it’s a smaller area with fewer employers, Progler-Thomsen said people may need to be willing to commute or otherwise expand their job search.

READ ALSO: Why (and how) Danish provincial areas want to hire skilled foreign workers

On the other hand, there may also be less competition for jobs in lesser-known parts of Denmark, said Mariola Kajkowska. 

Originally from Poland, Kajkowska moved to Vejle in 2019, where she works as an employee retention consultant. “There are often fewer applicants for each job, which increases your chance to be selected for the position,” she said.

Speaking Danish is important, professionally and socially

When Petkov first moved to Ringkøbing, it was challenging that she didn’t speak Danish. It was hard to do daily tasks, like communicate with workers at her children’s daycare or chat with her neighbours.

“People were distant at first when we bought our house in a typical Danish neighbourhood,” she said. 

It was very different from Aarhus, where they had lived before moving to Ringkøbing. “Aarhus has a huge international community,” she said. “We were always able to find friends and it was easy to get by speaking English.”

Petkov also missed the variety of English events and activities available in Aarhus. “But, we compensate by going to international events in the municipality,” she said.

Balaban, who established baseball clubs in both Herning and Vejle, said being a part of the community and getting involved is integral to building a social network and making friends in Vejle. “You have to be an active part of society,” he said.

Although learning Danish was a challenge, Petkov also saw it as an opportunity. “I’m not sure I would have learned Danish if we were living in Copenhagen or Aarhus,” she said. “You just don’t need it much there.”

Now, she’s learned enough Danish to engage in small talk with her neighbours. “Once people got used to us, we felt very welcome,” Petkov said, “though I don’t think we will ever blend completely.”

Chris Wantia, also a resident of Ringkøbing-Skjern Municipality, has found Danish to be integral to life in rural Denmark. 

He lives in the village of Bork Havn, population 300. “When I walk out of my house, I don’t expect my 65-year-old Danish neighbour to speak to me in English,” Wantia told The Local.

“English may be fine in the big cities, but speaking Danish here is important,” he said, adding that it would have been very challenging to purchase and renovate the two homes he and his wife, Janine, own in the municipality if he didn’t speak Danish. 

A second silver lining Petkov has identified is that living in Ringkøbing has also enabled her family to engage more deeply with Danes and Danish culture, adding that most of her friends are Danish. 

“If you really want to dive into Danish culture, a place like Ringkøbing is amazing,” she said.

There’s less to do, depending on your interests (and you might need to drive)

“You can count on one hand the number of good restaurants within 50 kilometres of Bork Havn,” Wantia told The Local. Although that wasn’t a dealbreaker for him and his wife, Janine, it might be worth some consideration before moving to a village like Bork Havn. 

“If you want many restaurants, parties, or meeting new people all the time, this isn’t the place for you,” he said. “It’s quiet here. Some people might not like that, but it’s perfect for us.”

Vejle, though much larger than Bork Havn with a population of 113,000, also isn’t a very lively city in terms of nightlife, according to Balaban.

“I’d say it’s a mature city,” he said. “It’s a quiet city that attracts a lot of families and people who are more settled down.”

Ultimately, having ‘things to do’ nearby depends on which activities you prefer. 

In Lolland, Progler-Thomsen said it’s “a bit of a sacrifice” to not have easy access to the cultural activities the family had in Copenhagen. 

READ ALSO: Are provincial parts of Denmark a good option for international families?

In exchange, her family has access to activities it enjoys that weren’t available in Copenhagen, including many outdoor activities and sports. “We love the Safari Park that’s only a 7-minute drive from our house,” Progler-Thomsen said. 

That’s something else to consider, though: driving. 

Kajkowska, in Vejle, said driving will play more of a role in one’s life, living in these parts of Denmark. “I was at a party the other night and two cars had driven one and a half hours from Sønderborg to come to the party,” she said.

READ ALSO: What benefits does life in provincial Denmark offer foreign residents?

For the most part, Petkov said she doesn’t feel like she’s missing out by living in Ringkøbing.

She enjoys several favorite cafes in town, an Italian restaurant where they are regulars and enjoy chatting with the owners, exploring the beaches and woods, and escaping to the wellness hotel near their house for mini-breaks. “In the summer, it feels like living at a resort,” Petkov said. 

“Ringkøbing is a great place for our family,” she said. “The benefits outweigh the drawbacks for us.”