I know… this is the topic that has ended relationships. This is the topic that has caused fights, maybe even caused anger. I know there is much public opinion regarding whether co-sleeping is beneficial to our children. Well I have done some research for you, so that maybe you can go back to those judging friends and family and give it to them “science style,” with credible research and tested questions. I do however want to advise before I begin that this is still a personal decision, and research does not always test for all variables! So here we go!!!
I know we have all heard “Do not sleep with your child.. you may roll over and suffocate them.” “It’s not safe to sleep with a small child, you may hurt them.” Well…….. yes it’s true, and yes it happens. Here’s the science………
Research regarding co-sleeping has largely focused on the safety of infants and small children. Infantile accidents, both fatal and non-fatal have been linked to co-sleeping (Duzinski et al., 2013 & Weber et al. 2012). Researchers report that sleeping with small children, primarily infants, may lead to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) which happens when a healthy child stops breathing, or cannot breath while sleeping and leads to death ( Duzinski et al., 2013 & Weber et al. 2012). This can occur whether the child sleeps alone in a crib, or by accidental suffocation by a parent or sibling while co-sleeping (Duzinski et al., 2013 & Weber et al. 2012).
We may have also asked ourselves what are the long term effects of co-sleeping. So here is some research that has focused on just that. But again… this is just some research, and not all variables have been explored.
This study explores the question, “Is my child getting enough sleep, or is co-sleeping or room sharing affecting his sleep?” This study’s results are based on parent’s perceptions or how they view their child’s sleeping patters.
Study aimed at assessing sleep patterns and behaviors of school aged children (Gupta et al. 2016,). Researchers used a validated questionnaire (Hindi Version of Childhood-Sleep-Habit-Questionnaire) in order to assess children from four different schools. This study also implemented comparisons between genders as well as other categorical variables such as rural living areas vs. urban (Gupta et al., 2016). Findings of this study suggest that about 65 % of rural parents, and 77.5% of urban parents reported that they believed their children received adequate sleep, and that gender did not play a role in this perception (Gupta et al., 2016). Sleep deprivation was more closely related to watching television before bedtime rather than it suggesting sleep deprivation as a result of co-sleeping (Gupta el al., 2016). This study did however relate co-sleeping to room sharing, therefore still leaving questions about the direct effects of children sleeping in parent’s beds (Gupta et al., 2016). It is however important to note that sharing a room may in some cases be similar to sharing a bed with parents, when in relation to sleep deprivation. In conclusion, researchers suggest that sleeping patterns and sleeping longevity is affected by various other variables such as; family practices or customs before bed as well as cultural-based beliefs and practices regarding co-sleeping (Gupta et al., 2016).
Heres another question…. “Will my child be psychologically affected by co-sleeping?” This study looks at just that. But again…. this is just one study!!
Kaymaz et al. (2015) suggest that there is no set date for ending co-sleeping. They report that ideas regarding co-sleeping are generally theories, and that many are based on personal preference (Kaymaz et al., 2015). They do however suggest that some have linked, or suggested a relation between co-sleeping and separation anxiety in later adolescence (Kaymaz et al.,2015). Their study included adolescents who were diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (Kaymaz et al., 2015). Results of the study suggested that those who co-slept longer with their parents, or shared a room with their parents for an extended period of time displayed more anxiety in various situations (Kaymaz et al., 2015). They believe this may be because children who co-sleep or room share for a long period of time may have decreased confidence in certain anxiety provoking situations, such as being away from their parents or caregiver (Kaymaz et al., 2015).
Lastly, you may be wondering… “Okay I love my child, but they need to get out!!!” “They need their own space, I need my own space.. Me and my partner need more space!!” “But how do I do it?” Here’s one article that provides a very cool idea for how to do just that!!
Chou (2009) suggests that introducing picture books about bedtime may help children transition into sleeping on their own. Western culture is quick with relating bedtime with isolation, therefore possibly increasing anxiety or fear in children who may not like being alone (Chou, 2009). In other words, they create an environment full of anxiety and pressure before bedtime. He also discusses cultural differences regarding co-sleeping and transitioning into solitary sleeping, and suggests that some cultures do not stop co-sleeping until their child begins school. Lastly, Chou (2009) suggests that constant reassurance and praise may help children ease into sleeping alone, decreasing anxiety caused by separation.
So after all this research and scientific conclusions.. you may be wondering, “So what does it even mean?” ” I don’t even know know if it good or bad, or if I am being good or bad.” Well heres my take on it.. Here is what Elena thinks:
- Co-sleeping is a personal preference, and may even be unconsciously rooted in our culture, so do not be ashamed.
- While it may be dangerous at times to sleep with an infant, you can still take precautions when sleeping with them, and there are so many new ways to have them in bed with us, while still keeping them safe.
- Anxiety is normal, it’s actually quite common. There are many things that can cause anxiety among small children. Things such as: meeting new people, being away from our loved ones, visiting new places, or even trying new food… but there are also ways to minimize anxiety in all situations. We can teach our children confidence and autonomy even if they sleep right next to us.
- The choice to co-sleep or not to co-sleep is so personal, so do NOT feel ashamed if you decide either option. If co-sleeping causes you lack of sleep, then maybe it is time to teach your child/children to sleep on their own. If it causes you relationship problems.. then YES work on getting them to sleep alone. Maybe try a reward system, or just positive feedback and praise 🙂
** Why I do not co-sleep with my child..
- She has never really liked to sleep with us.
- She likes her own space and sweats too much when we share.
- She is a very crazy sleeper and becomes annoyed when we “take” her spot.
- Sleeping on her own came naturally to her…. so really I just got lucky.
Well, that is all I have for you guys on this post, feel free to ask me further questions if you need further research on this topic!
Here are the references to the articles for further reading!!! Thank you once again for taking the time to read this blog. I welcome suggestions! And subscribe for weekly posts.
Note: While this is blog was partially written in APA format, I did not totally format it in perfect APA format in order to allow for an easier reading and understanding. Sorry to those who know and practice APA.
Chou, W. (2009). Co-Sleeping and the Importation of Picture Books about Bedtime. Children’s Literature In Education: An International Quarterly, 40(1), 19-32. doi:10.1007/s10583-008-9074-8
Duzinski, S. V., Yuma-Guerrero, P. J., Fung, A., Brown, J. M., Wheeler, T., Barczyk, A. N., & Lawson, K. A. (2013). Sleep Behaviors of Infants and Young Children. Journal Of Trauma Nursing, 20(4), 189. doi:10.1097/JTN.0000000000000011
Gupta, R., Kandpal, S. D., Goel, D., Mittal, N., Dhyani, M., & Mittal, M. (2016). Full length article: Sleep-patterns, co-sleeping and parent’s perception of sleep among school children: Comparison of domicile and gender. Sleep Science, 9192-197. doi:10.1016/j.slsci.2016.07.003
Kaymaz, N., Gokten, E. S., Uzun, M. E., Yildirim, S., Tekin, M., Topaloglu, N., & Binnetoglu, F. K. (2015). Prolonged rooming-in in infancy is associated with generalized anxiety disorder in the adolescent period. International Journal Of Adolescent Medicine And Health, (4), 383. doi:10.1515/ijamh-2014-0045
Weber M, Risdon R, Ashworth M, Malone M, Sebire N. Autopsy findings of co-sleeping-associated sudden unexpected deaths in infancy: Relationship between pathological features and asphyxial mode of death. Journal Of Paediatrics And Child Health [serial online]. 2012;(4):335. Available from: Academic OneFile, Ipswich, MA. Accessed May 8, 2017.