- Athlete and podcaster Rich Roll sleeps in a tent outside while his wife sleeps inside.
- He said the setup supports his sleep, connects him to nature, and doesn't affect his marriage.
- Other couples are embracing unconventional sleeping styles that keep both partners happy and rested.
Rich Roll lives in a nice home with a warm bed in the Malibu Canyon neighborhood near Los Angeles. He says his nearly 20-year relationship with his wife Julie Piatt is strong.
And yet, the 55-year-old athlete and advocate has been sleeping in a tent outside his home for about two years.
The setup, Roll said on a YouTube video, allows him to sleep better, connect with nature, and support a stoic practice. Everything in his marriage, he recently told podcast host Tim Ferriss, is "all good."
"Being outdoors, breathing that outdoor air, sleeping under the stars is a very simple and basic way of reconnecting with what it means to be fundamentally human," Roll said on YouTube.
Roll got the idea after sleeping on his roof with his family
Roll is a former lawyer and recovered alcoholic who, around age 40, adopted plant-based diet, lost 50 pounds, and completed a 3-day double-Ironman triathlon — that's a 6.2-mile swim, 260-mile bike, and 52.5-mile run — in Hawaii.
He details his transformations in his memoir, "Finding Ultra," and hosts the popular "Rich Roll Podcast," which has more than 200 million downloads.
Roll's success, in a way, has attracted him to tent life.
"If everything went terribly wrong and I lost everything, I know that I'm happy sleeping in a tent, and I don't really need that much ultimately," he told Ferriss.
Before moving outside, Roll slept inside with Piatt, who prefers a warmer sleeping environment.
"No matter how much we would try to compromise to make it good for both of us, Julie would always be bundled up under a ton of covers and I'm sleeping on top of the covers sweating," he said. "And then neither of us sleeps and we get up and we're not happy."
But then one night, he and Piatt slept on their flat roof with their kids for fun. They projected movies onto the wall, ate popcorn, and slept in sleeping bags.
"I woke up the next day just feeling amazing from the outdoor air and the cool desert air of Los Angeles," Roll said. "And I was like, 'I can't remember the last time I slept so well.'" So he did it again the next night, and the next.
Soon enough, Roll got sick of waking up under a film of dew. So he put a tent on the roof. When the wind threatened the tent, he moved it to his yard, where he's slept since. It's furnished with a mattress and plenty of blankets, including a gravity blanket.
"I just love it," he told Ferriss of tent sleeping. "It's really been beneficial to my sleep."
Other couples say their unconventional sleeping arrangements helps their marriage
Other couples credit their unconventional sleeping patterns for better sleep — and a better relationship.
Kelly Burch, a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, sleeps in the same room as her husband, but in a separate bed. The setup supports their contrasting sleep styles — she's a tosser-and-turner who needs clean sheets, he's a log-like sleeper who invites the dog in — and hasn't affected their sex life.
"Sleeping in different beds has been a boon for our already strong marriage," she wrote for Insider. "We're not quibbling over who kept whom up in the night, or who disturbed the other's sleep more. We're waking better rested."
As for Roll, he said people assume the tent means he and Piatt are fighting. "We have our quality time, I promise you," he told Ferriss. "Everything is fine in my marriage."