Adults Are Having G-Rated Sleepovers

Matt and Mer, 28 and 26 respectively, met in college and quickly fell in friendship-love. They ended up in New York City as post-grads, where the two began a tradition of weekly Monday night sleepovers. “Monday nights are ours,” said Matt. “If something comes up, we let the other person know at least one week in advance with alternate rescheduling dates where we do a make-good. Usually it’s that Wednesday. I don’t think we’ve ever fully cancelled.”

They’ve kept this standing tradition through boyfriends (“they know the drill”) and away from other friends. “Sometimes we’ll do a double date for the dinner portion of the evening with two other friends, but we check in with one another before we agree to it.”

There are three stages to the night. The first is an activity of some sort, which usually involves a meal. The second is full of deep conversation — so much so that there’s a “transition phase” to pump one another up when they’re not in the mood. According to Matt, for their sanity, “it has to happen.” Stage three is their time to decompress. “The phones come out, we get quiet, go on Instagram and tag one another in memes while sitting on the couch.” In the mornings, they either work out together then get bagels, or one locks up while the other heads to work.

“Mer’s my family,” said Matt. “Time spent with her never feels like effort or an obligation. I love cancelled plans as much as anyone else, but Mer provides a lot of perspective and stability for me. Our sleepovers are a nice anchor in this busy, overwhelming, consuming city. It’s good for our mental health, and it’s a nice tradition.”

Leonor, 35, is a big supporter of the platonic adult sleepover. She and her best friend/“work wife,” Raha, have had two sleepovers, once when they had Raha’s apartment to themselves and another with Raha’s husband right there to make fun of them. “He judges our snack consumption,” said Leonor. “Cool Ranch Doritos, oversize M&M’s, large sodas and bad rom-coms.” She’s part of a group of friends who call themselves The Buttertones and The Jam; they organized a large sleepover sixth months after falling for one another at a wedding. There were blowup mattresses, gossip and broken dreams of staying up past midnight.

“I wasn’t allowed to sleep out as a kid, so for me, it’s like claiming a thing I never got to have,” said Leonor. “There’s a sense of bonding you get from sleepovers, from whispering in your pajamas. It’s fun! There’s no bubble to burst at the end of the night. You just wake in the morning and try to figure out who fell asleep first.”

“I think there’s a thing about female friendships where we’re drawn to being as physically close to each other as possible,” said Rachel, 28. “When my camp friends and I were in our early twenties, we used to live in different cities. We’d pick a place to meet up every few months and would essentially try to cram as many of us into one bed as possible. That was when we were in our early twenties. Now that we’re in our late twenties and early thirties, we meet in NYC (three of us live here now) and stick to two girls per bed: those who snore and those who don’t.”

The organizer of frequent and extensively planned adult sleepovers, 34-year-old Meghan has always been obsessed with this idea of an extended hangout. “Summer camp was my favorite time of year growing up,” she says. Today, her sleepovers involve signature white nightgowns — “sometimes I feel like I’m recruiting for a cult” — and offer an opportunity to meet new people, just like at a cocktail party.

“I love mixing up people who I think will have fun together. Sleepovers and being away from work and significant others allow for all the stress of home life to fall away and for women to connect. It’s like being a girl again. I hope I keep having sleepovers forever.”

Just as no kid wants the sleepover to end, none of the adults with whom I spoke to for this story (there were far more than I was able to include, a mix of women and men plus two straight dudes who’ve been sharing a bed once weekly since childhood) saw a reason to stop having platonic sleepovers with friends. Age was of no deterrent. In fact, the sleepovers were explained as a way to ground friendships as lives get busier and more logistically complicated. One woman, Leah, told me that her sleepovers — which have grown to a group of eight to 10 friends in a range of ages who rotate hosting responsibilities about four times a year — started when she moved to the suburbs and wanted to lure her friends to stay with her. These sleepovers were described as deep bonding exercises, emotional releases, excuses to let loose and be silly, and to talk about hard, “grown up” things — all while feeling like a kid again.

“You know that feeling when you become an adult,” Rachel said, “and you realize you make the rules and you can eat ice cream three meals a day if you want to? I think sleepovers are kind of the same. We don’t have to give them up just because we get older.”

Photos by Edith Young

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  • Haley Fox

    Yes yes yes! Since becoming an *~adult~* (barely) I really miss the deep bonds that come from sleepovers. I think the closest I get now are when someone has to crash after a night out. But now I’m inspired to have a real sleepover! Love this article

  • Aydan

    when I lived on the west coast I had this amazing mattress (in the safe care of my parents at current) that was a heaven sent. Friends would fall asleep after talking for hours and the number of incredible friend sleep overs on that bed is the stuff legends are made of. Miss it so much in my new life!

  • DarthVadersCats

    Yes! I’m in my early twenties and I have a bunch of glow in the dark dinosaurs stuck on my wall each named after the first friends I had sleepovers with in my room. I love love love sleepovers and I hope I never stop having them, no matter how old I get.
    In fact, my dream is to own a house with my two closest friends and have sleepovers every day! Which is incredibly naive and far fetched I know, more because our pets wouldn’t get along than anything else.

  • I was not allowed to have sleepovers as a kid and really want to suggest this to my bed friend who lives 10 minutes away. I’ll even sleep on her floor if it means we get to watch girl movies together. 🙂

  • Car

    I still love a good sleepover! This reminded me that when I was at sleepaway camp, my friends and I would drag our our sleeping bags to the filthy floor and all ten of us would sleep in the center of the cabin…as if being being in bunk beds 12 inches away from each other wasn’t enough?!
    My new apartment finally has enough floor space in my bedroom for a big air mattress, and I’ve already tricked one friend and my mom into having a sleepover (Mom sleepovers are highly underrated FYI)

  • Need to bring this idea up to my engaged friends ASAP.

  • Madeleine

    My best friend and I have been having sleepovers at least once every fortnight since we were 12 (both now 26). It’s the number one best thing in the world.

  • Anne

    Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to host sleepovers, nor that I could sleep to my friends’ houses. So, I sent this article to my friend. We’ve been planning to do a slumber​ party for so long, but haven’t done it yet. Hope his piece will motivate us.

  • little fang

    This is such a wonderful thing about visiting my best friends who live in other cities–or when I go on a girls trip vaca and split a hotel room–we snuggle up in bed together in our PJs, usually after some bad tv and snacks, and talk in the dark all night. Necessary catharsis.

  • Nikelle

    Nope. Never have liked them. The darkness is meant for sleeping, not talking with the lights off or eating junk food. I love love love doing crazy things/cuddling during the day and early evening, but sleepovers have consistently been my least favorite thing since childhood. Come over at the crack of dawn and I will spend all day eating with you.

    Thankfully at summer camp I was always the one chosen to sleep in a cabin full of strangers (perks of being the pastor’s daughter) so I could just turn onto my stomach and ignore everyone who wanted to stay up late. At my 12th birthday party sleepover I stole an introverted friend and took a nap in my room while my friends watched Bring It On for the third time that night in the living room with my older sister.

    I ignored this post this summer, but felt like I needed to represent the (hopefully) silent majority : )