It Turns Out Bed Sharing Doesn’t Help Kids Sleep Better

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Family bedI knew it, you guys. I knew it. A new study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics shows that bed-sharing is linked to nighttime disturbances and shorter sleep cycles in kids. Despite the fact that many parents who choose to bed-share do it, in part, because they believe it will help their kids sleep better, it looks like it might do just the opposite.

This sleep study, which was done from 1999 to 2008, used sleep reports from over 55,000 mothers on their children’s sleep habits at both six months and at 18 months. The results make me feel very, very tired. According to the Huffington Post:

Bed-sharing at 6 months tripled the risk that an infant would awake in the middle of the night frequently at 18 months, the researchers found. This risk gradually increased the older an infant bed-shared.

Yikes. Now, the study makes it clear that they are not saying that bed-sharing causes sleep disturbances, but that there is an association between the two that needs further examination. As someone who loves sleep like a fat kid loves cake, an association is all I need to say, “No, thank you. Get back in your own bed.”

But there’s more at stake here than just sleep. Co-sleeping is also a safety issue. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against bed-sharing (because smothering) and instead suggests room-sharing (less risk of smothering.) I am proud to say that my husband and I room-shared with our twins until they were about three-weeks-old, at which point we got them the hell out and into the room next door. Babies are noisy, y’all.

It’s not that bed-sharing is a bad or wrong choice, not at all. But it was definitely bad and wrong for me. There are a lot of folks out there who believe strongly in the family bed, and see nightly wakings as part of the deal. They think that benefits of sharing a bed with their kids outweigh the costs to their sleep. That’s cool. I am just not one of those people.

My kids are six now, and my daughter loves sleeping with me. Every Friday night is “Me and Mommy Night,” when she gets all of her stuffed animals and cozy blankets and sleeps in my bed. It’s a treat, and it’s special for both of us. But I do get the not-uncommon tiny foot between my butt cheeks. I don’t know how she manages to find just the right place to put her toes in order to jolt me from a deep sleep, but she does. That is why we only do this once a week. Also, if she had her way we’d sleep together every single night, and that isn’t even kind of happening.

So this study is something to keep in mind if you are thinking about bed-sharing. If you’re doing it because it’s the only way to get your kid to sleep, you might actually be doing more harm than good in the long run. If you want to increase the odds of everyone getting their Z’s, you might want to separate those beds. But if you’re devoted to bed-sharing and don’t mind less sleep, then I don’t even know who you are anymore.

(photo: maxriesgo / Shutterstock)