Singer and lyricist Matt Berninger's words for Sleep Well Beast revolve around the fears and struggles within relationships. They are as much about his bond with bandmate Aaron Dessner as with his wife, Carin Besser. Berninger explained to Q magazine:
"Guilty Party started being about what happens when a long relationship falls apart. I've been in a relationship with Aaron longer than Carin. They're both a part of every single song. Our relationships are this fabric, and the threads of them are not isolated, they're not singular, they're not disconnected."
Carin Besser is a former fiction editor for The New Yorker and has often contributed to The National's songwriting. She co-wrote this song with her husband:
"It was a way for us to tiptoe into dark territory without actually having to talk about those things," Berninger explained to The Guardian. "Most of the songs are about things I’m afraid of or things I really want to hold on to. A lot of it is about inhabiting alternate realities and digging into it. It’s confessional but it’s not autobiographical, if that makes sense. It’s emotionally confessional, but the details aren’t always specific to my stuff. Some of it is just made up."