Why Do We Make Children Sleep Alone?

should children sleep alone?

I read an interesting opinion piece in the LA Times titled Why Do We Make Children Sleep Alone. In case you don’t get a chance to read it, the basic premise is this:

“For all the tenacity with which we cling to the ideal of solitary childhood sleep, it’s a historical anomaly. This system of sleeping — adults in one room, each child walled off in another — was common practice exactly nowhere before the late 19th century, when it took hold in Europe and North America. ” And, “Our sleep, in other words, has a large carbon footprint. Far from being a backward practice, co-sleeping, or at least sleeping in close proximity, may be a more enlightened, sustainable use of space and natural resources.”

The article struck me, because though I’ve had many conversations over the years about co-sleeping — how long we preferred to keep babies in the same room/same bed, and how we handle siblings sharing a room — I’ve never thought about the history of sleep or considered that there are modern cultures where still today, family members all sleep in one room.

should children sleep alone?should children sleep alone?

I’ll be honest, it’s hard for me to even imagine beyond baby and toddlerhood. I can picture it working in a pre-electricity time, when people of all ages went to bed with the sun. But these days, it seems like adults rarely go to sleep at the same time as their children — so even if they sleep in the same room, falling asleep together at the same time seems unlikely.

What about you? Have you ever thought about the history of sleep, or considered that our tradition of separate bedrooms is a historical anomaly? And what’s your take on our contemporary version of co-sleeping? Do your babies (or did your babies) share a bed with you for a few months? A few years? Or if not a bed, do they (or did they) sleep in your room?

P.S. — When I shared photos of our girls’ bedroom with four beds in row, it stressed some readers out as they worried about privacy for our older kids.

102 thoughts on “Why Do We Make Children Sleep Alone?”

  1. My son slept in a cradle in our room for the first couple of months, but he moved to his own room after that. He’s never slept in our bed. We always felt like our bed should be just for us.

    It’s funny now though. He’s almost 5, and he keeps asking why he has to sleep by himself when my husband and I get to share a room. It’s hurt his feelings a couple of times.

  2. We are a family of four in a modest two bedroom house. My oldest daughter slept in our room until she was five (at which point I was 6m pregnant and I didn’t imagine she’d sleep well in our room once baby arrived).
    When she was younger we put her in “her room” for the first part of the night and then brought her in with us once we were ready for sleep.
    Now, baby is in our room and will be for the foreseeable future, but since we have two girls, at some point they will share a room. Less space, less stuff, more time together!

  3. My second and third babies slept in my room after they were born–for a few months, but (mostly) in their own beds. Right now, my three kids all sleep in the same room. When the new baby comes, the baby will probably sleep in the same room as us. I have a third bedroom, but it’s used more of an office/guest room right now.

    I always shared a room growing up. I think it is a waste of space to have a single child in a single bedroom, particularly because I use our bedrooms for sleeping, not for any toys or desks or anything.

    We just went on vacation and shared a single hotel room with three kids and two adults–and it worked out just fine. We would put the kids to bed and then the adults would work on computer/phones or read until we were ready for sleep. But I wouldn’t want to do that permanently.

  4. Can you tell me how you made that black & white print for the girls’ wall? I’d love to do something similar with a photo of my girls!

  5. Such an interesting article. I would like to know more about the correlation of spread of disease and sleeping arrangements. Personally, I love sleeping alone and find such guilty pleasure when I have that opportunity (when either my husband or I are away from home for work). It doesn’t happen often because my now 12 year old daughter loves to share my bed if my husband is away and I do not protest that – she will not want that forever. Sigh. Quality of sleep is important and if co sleeping was the norm, would this suffer? I would wake every time someone stirred and I am sure that would not be healthy for me. And what about spousal intimacy? How would that work if everyone was co sleeping?

    1. As far as quality of sleep with co-sleeping goes, I think it’s like a lot of things– you get used to it and then it feels normal and not disruptive. I had a hard time sleeping in the same bed as my husband when we got married. But then I got used to it. Both my babies co-slept with me and often still climb in bed with me as old children. A lot of times I don’t even notice and wake up in the morning with them there. That said– I also enjoy sleeping alone sometimes! So I know what you mean! Right now my kids share a room and I think that’s a nice arrangement. But over the years we’ve had lots of configurations depending on the needs of the moment.

    2. As far as quality of sleep with co-sleeping goes, I think it’s like a lot of things– you get used to it and then it feels normal and not disruptive. I had a hard time sleeping in the same bed as my husband when we got married. But then I got used to it. Both my babies co-slept with me and often still climb in bed with me as older children. A lot of times I don’t even notice and wake up in the morning with them there. That said– I also really enjoy sleeping alone sometimes now! So I know what you mean! Right now my kids share a room and I think that’s a nice arrangement. But over the years we’ve had lots of configurations depending on the needs of the moment.

  6. giselle taminez

    I have a 15 year old girl and she always slept in her room except occasionally she would come to our bed. After I divorced her father, the 2 of us shared a bed for about year. Now I am remarried, have a 3 year old and a 1 year old and although they have their own room, we have a family bed. Yes, husband and both baby girls sleep with us. It wasn’t planned but somehow this arrangement feels more natural. I hated sleeping alone when I was a kid so I can’t imagine it being much fun for them. I am thinking we may get them a full bed to share because they seem to like to cuddle.

  7. as #2 of 4 kids,….I desperately wanted my own room growing up. My older sister, and younger brother got their own, why did I have to share with my sister? Our personalities couldn’t have been more different (myself a neat freak, she was/is a slob) I couldn’t fathom why my parents would move, and build a house without a bedroom for each of their children. I think our relationship suffered as kids as a result, that’s how important this was to me and how affected I was by the mess (my parents also never really enforced clean bedrooms, so it was all on me to BEG her to please clean up; and if they did bring it up once, they typically didn’t follow through on the follow up of if it was actually done). This was the source of a lot of tears and arguments when I reflect back on my childhood. It was even mentioned in my sisters maid of honor speech for my wedding (we had to share classrooms as a combined 1-2 grade, same soccer team, same neighborhood friends, I even said as a kid “I would have to share my grave” I’m sure you get how prime this was for toast material). I think it depends on the kid and the situation. Now that I am a mom of 2, and my 14 month old wakes up crying at random points at night due to teeth etc, I am VERY grateful they are in separate rooms so we don’t have to deal with getting 2 children back to bed! ps. my parents were/are great, but both worked, dad building a business, my mom lost her own mom and was dealing with grief during a lot of this.

  8. Such a interesting read..! Our baby boy was in our room in his own little bassinet (mostly) for about five months, then moved next door to his nursery.

    Honestly, I think the thing I’d miss most about continuing a room-sharing or co-sleeping arrangement would be pillow-talk with my husband! Yeah you can find time/places to be physical anywhere, but I’d miss the way thoughts surface in the quiet and dark of our bed as we drift off at nighttime.. :)

    As our family grow I’m definitely all about room-sharing between kids though- then they get their own pillow-talk!

  9. My husband and I never slept with our twins in our room, though sometimes, they have ended up in bed with us (which we HATE. How can one tiny body take up the bulk of a king sized bed??) They started out sharing a room, but we ended up splitting them because they were always waking each other (and us) up. They have always slept better apart. That said, we’re about to have 2 bedrooms for 3 children, so at some point, someone is going to have to share (we recently tried to put the twins back together…and no, they still wake each other up).

    When our baby is born, it will go in crib in a hall closet for now….THAT also gets some interesting reactions from some people! ;)

    1. My toddler has been sleeping with us since day one. He’s now 19 months old and sleeping in his own bed/room for the first time tonight. I’m actually a mess and crying my eyes out because he didn’t even put up a fight. He went straight into his room and slept like he’d been doing that forever. We did bedtime routine in his little room as off he went. Still there now fast asleep and both my husband and I are over here… Missing him sleeping in his little cot next to us. It just happened so fast. O was looking online and no many people (actually no one so far) shared the same experience.

  10. We have never shared a room with our kids. When they were little babies I would get them from the nursery and bring them into bed with me and fall asleep nursing on the really rough nights, but it’s not something I ever did on purpose. I really like having my own space for sleeping, to the point where even though I’m in a very happy marriage I think the Victorians with their separate husband’s and wives’ bedrooms were on to something! I would insist on my own bedroom if a) we had the extra space and b) I didn’t think it would hurt my husband’s feelings. My husband and I have enough issues because he gets sleepy before I do, so if I’m trying to read in bed he’s beside me grunting for me to turn off the light. I can’t imagine how much more annoying it would be having to share a room with the kids, too!

    I laughed at the first comment. My five-year-old also asks me why he has to be in his own room when my husband and I get to share.

  11. Our older son always slept alone (and liked it!) but our younger son has always wanted to sleep with someone else (preferably plastered up against them, but at least in the same room). He was really sad when he stopped sharing a room with his brother (but his brother was really glad to have his own space). Even at age 10, if my husband is out of town he will sometimes ask if he can sleep with me. Interestingly, it also matches up with their introvertedness/extrovertedness.

  12. I find this interesting as there are also many studies that show that we sleep better on our own and that particularly couples have deeper and better sleep if they sleep in their own room as you are not disturbed by your partners snoring/breathing/moving etc. I would assume that this would apply to children sleeping in the same room as well. I am a very light sleeper and vacations in hotel rooms are the worst for me as I can hear everyone in the room move, breathe, etc and I’m staring at the ceiling. I’m sure it’s different for every person, but I could not imagine all of us sleeping int he same room all the time. I am just so pleased I no longer need to interrupt my sleep with kids coming into my bed int he middle of the night.

  13. Our parents were strict about not letting us in their bed, but they didn’t mind if we moved into one another’s rooms (I am female and have a brother who is 3 years younger). We shared a room with bunk beds for awhile but would often end up on the bottom bunk together up through when I was about 8. After we had our own rooms, we would set up “sleepovers” in either one of our bedrooms or a totally different part of the house…not as much on school nights but definitely on weekends and summers. Yes, we had two twin beds in two different rooms of the house but we would sleep on the floor in a third room instead. My husband also shared a room with his younger sibling and we plan on it for our own future children, even if there is enough space for everyone to have their own.

    Funny enough, I now really enjoy having my own bed. If my husband and I are on vacation and end up in a room with two beds, each of us will take one. We are moving into a bigger house soon and already are excited about the possibilities of being able to move into another room if our sleep gets disturbed by the other person.

  14. Gretchen Harris

    I share a bedroom with my 4 yr old son because we live in a small one-bedroom house. I generally don’t think too much about it unless I want to read myself to sleep, which I sometimes do with a headlamp. I have sometimes felt bad that I don’t have the financial means to move into a larger home but I also think that it works for us. I rarely let him sleep in my bed because I want to sleep well. It does seem strange to have young children be all alone at night, it can be a lonely and spooky time.
    I don’t have a partner so I don’t lose out on adult time and only have overnight guests when my son is staying with his father.
    I really kind of like sharing a room with him.

  15. It might sounds funny or strange but whenever I think about what could be the right set up for my kids, the one they are built for, I picture us living in caves and how it would be then – because people didn’t change much since then in their physical set up and also because this always worked for me.
    My kids sleep definitely better with us in the same room, always did, but I also like my alone time in the evening. So I’m with them in their bed room when they fall asleep and when they wake up during the night they can always come into our bed room and stay there. I am a very deep sleeper by the way. I never hear them coming. I just like that they never feel alone at night.
    The analogy with the cave also worked for me when it came to carrying and feeding and if it didn’t work so well, if I was a different person and my kids wouldn’t be so content with the basic set up, I wouldn’t stick to it. I like things down to earth: trees make me happy, white sugar is making me go crazy and pure wool makes me feel instantly warm and cozy. I like sitting by the fire with other people, sharing tents and cabins with almost strangers and having my kids cuddled up with me at night just seems so natural.
    I am never surprised when I hear from kids who don’t sleep well alone in their own room because I don’t think they are made for it. But if they are, that is cool, too.

  16. I hate to admit it, but our 10yr old still sleeps with us (most nights). He is our baby and it has always felt natural to have him close. Sometimes my husband actually sleeps on the couch and I am in our bed with kids and dogs lol. Our older kids also co-slept, but not as consistently as our youngest has. They grow so fast and before you know it they are gone (our oldest is 21); I am so thankful for all of the nights we shared watching movies, talking and just cuddling. In my opinion, it creates a very strong honest bond with your children.

    1. I’m in the same situation with my 7-year-old son … he sleeps very bad alone and wakes up with nightmares … my husband and I have chosen to allow him to stay with us because it was an eternal fight … in the end it’s our little treasure and indeed one day will grow and I do not want to miss the opportunity to feel their hugs …

    2. Our 4 year old has always slept with us. For the first 9 months, she slept in our bed. Then we moved her into her own room but take turns sleeping with her each and every night. We all get fantastic sleep and my husband and I still have plenty of time to be alone together each night between her going to sleep and one of us joining her.
      She is our only child and we know this desire won’t last forever for her, so we cherish it while it exists.

  17. Interesting! I remember reading the Little House on the Prairie series as a kid and being struck by the fact that they all shared a bedroom. I knew enough about what parents did in bed to know that I wouldn’t want to wake up to that. haha

    That said, I think it’s so good for kids to share a bedroom. My sister and I did until I was 15 and even then we had a Jack-and-Jill bathroom that connected our two bedrooms. We’d leave the doors open and yabber back and forth until one of us fell asleep. That worked well for us at that age, as I was very clean and my sister was not so much. But the years we shared a bedroom were so much fun and good for us. We learned how to make compromises, make due with a small space, and we were always there to comfort one another. My parents occasionally intervened but it was mostly when my sister’s side (yes, we had sides) of the room turned into a total disaster.

    1. It’s so funny that you mention Little House. As soon as I read this post that show immediately came to mind. I think the show normalized cosleeping for me. I remember watching them as they were going to bed, thinking it was strange, then realizing that that was how they slept because that is all they had. After I got past that bit I daydreamed about how it would be nice to have someone nearby. I did also think about the parents :).

  18. My sons shared a bedroom (first by necessity, later by choice) until the younger of the two decided at 12 that he wanted his own room. We rearranged the bedroom situation and made that happen. I know a family with four children who has two bedrooms, each with a king and queen pushed together. One bedroom is for the night owls and the other for the early birds. Dad is an owl and Mom a bird, so each get some kids and a bedtime that works for them. (They homeschool so don’t have the rigor of school schedules.) As for the history, it’s hard for me to imagine it’s not simply a matter of bigger/better/more we Americans are famous for.

    1. This is extremely fascinating! I have some friends… four kids, two bedrooms… the sleeping configuration is mutable and I admire their dedication to the family unit. Though they spend a lot on rent in a central location in the city, they share one car, one cell phone, and two tech devices for all family needs. Mom stays home to run the household and dad works nearby. They make plentiful opportunities for family and one-on-one adventures, friendship maintenance, and are honest about the pros & cons of their lifestyle. In my eyes, they have it really good. ❤️

  19. My daughter co-slept with us until she was 3. Then she moved to a toddler bed in our room (we have a one-bedroom apartment). When she was 6, we moved to the living room and she had the bedroom to herself, which is still our setup (she’s now 15). A lot of this was driven by the necessities of very little space, but I also liked having her close by when she was little.

  20. My babies all slept in our room until they were one, then into their own or sharing with a sibling. Right now our 2 girls share and our 2 boys share, but our oldest (12 year old girl) is close to getting her own room. The problem is, that when she gets her own room, the baby (6 year old girl) also gets her own by default. Although I don’t think my 2 boys (8 and 9) mind sharing, they might feel it’s unfair that the girls each get their own room and they have to share. I don’t know if there is a good solution to this, since we only have the 3 kids bedrooms.

    1. Coming way late to the party, but we have 5 kids in our family. No matter which house we owned at the time, it always only had 3 bedrooms, so by default girls in one, boys in the other. By the time our kids were teenagers (and HUGE and HORMONAL) they were still sharing rooms; and by rooms I mean 10×12 ft. tiny rooms!

      My short answer would be to make that 3rd kid’s bedroom a studio for art or a designated space for reading or whatever. And to be firm about it. As the last kid in my family I watched as each kid in front of me eventually got their own room for no other reason than they were the oldest -or in some families, a particular gender. oy. Dorms by gender seems ultimately more reasonable and “fair”, so that’s what we did, and for much better reasons than being fair.

      Yes, they argued from time to time, but in reality, Husband and I actually talked about this prior to even getting hitched – I was firm on sharing rooms as a means of teaching our kids how to negotiate, share, compliment, how to team clean-work-play together, how to assist and help each other, how to see another person needs privacy or space and how to give that to them, and so many other things they would never learn as effectively as if they had “their own” room. There is a huge entitlement that comes with “my own room”, and we just didn’t want that for our kids. We also didn’t want the shut door exclusion, the loneliness that comes -even in a house full of people, the complacence in keeping it clean because it wouldn’t bother anyone else, so many things that come with “but it’s MY room.”

      In the long run, looking back, yes yes 5 times over I would do the exact same thing. It was worth it and *I* truly believe it was a huge part of how and why they are such good friends to this day and such good adults who can look at others and see needs and ways to help.

      Oh and those same 5 teenagers had to share a very small one cupboard (rollers/irons/tampons/razors/foam/etc.), one sink, and one (girls/guy potty seat up/down) toilet bathroom as well. Yes, they learned about the opposite gender’s needs and much patience too!

      1. This is really interesting! We moved our family of six (four kids) into a four bedroom house last year. We intended to have a playroom, then have the boys share and the girls share the other two bedrooms. We did that for several months, but every night our daughter (8) would move into the playroom bed to sleep because her sister (1) would fuss in the night or wake up super early. My oldest daughter is used to sharing a room with someone who coughs or sneezes or gets up to use the bathroom, but the noise level of crying was just not something she could sleep through.

        So this school year we put the boys (4 and 6) into the biggest room and split the girls up. It is better for my oldest’s sleep, as now she can sleep through the night and is better rested overall (which is good for all of us!). However, my oldest daughter is very particular about how she keeps her room and gets her buttons pushed when others come into “her room” and move her stuff. Understandable, (I don’t like it when the kids come in my room and mess with my stuff!) and we work through it, but having her own room really sets this particular dynamic up. The boys, conversely, have very little sense of indignation over “my stuff” and “your stuff”.

        This summer we will try to change the sleeping arrangements around a lot. I want my now-2 year old to learn to sleep with others and I want to push back on my oldest daughters’ rigidity with “her” space.

        1. I can’t possibly know all the things you know about your oldest daughter so I suggest the following with the utmost kindness. What if she doesn’t need your push back and would benefit more from being understood? What if the room isn’t making her that way? I was that little girl once and that is exactly the kind of adult I am. My biggest struggle as a mom and a wife is being forced to share my space with everyone. To help me cope, there are few small spaces (a drawer, my nightstand, my purse) in the house designated as “mine” and my family stays out of them, even my 3 year old. I can’t tell you how important this is to me. Just food for thought.

  21. Super interesting–everything from the article, to the post, to the comments. We had both of our sons cosleep with us, either in our bed or in a cosleeper attached to the bed like a side car for the first several months of their lives. Once they moved to their own rooms I still brought them into my bed anytime they were scared or sick. When my younger son was a toddler he started screaming whenever we’d leave his room at night after putting him to bed, and realizing he might want company we moved him in with his older brother. This fixed the issue, and he went to sleep much more easily. They’ve shared a room ever since (they’re 7 and 4 now). We actually downsized recently, realizing we didn’t need the # of bedrooms we previously had.

    Although my husband and I do prefer to have our bed to ourselves, we still allow them in if they’re scared or sick. I remember when I was little–even into high school–my mom (a single mother) ALWAYS allowed me to share her bed if I was upset or scared. I found such comfort in that, and I want my kids to feel that as well.

    Re: going to bed at different times, when we are all sharing a room (i.e. if there’s a thunderstorm at bedtime and we put them to bed together in our room, or if we’re sharing a hotel room with a single bedroom), we simply put them to bed at their bedtime and come in to sleep later when we’re ready. They’re always already asleep, and our joining doesn’t disturb them :)

  22. I slept alone as a child and hated it, so all 3 of my kids slept in our bed when they were little and were always allowed to get in bed with us when they were older if they wanted to. When I put them to sleep in their own beds as older children, I read and sang them to sleep every night. Now that they are teenagers I still spend time with them every night. My middle one has PANS and for a while would have terrible ticks and involuntary movements when he was trying to go to sleep so I would rub his feet until he fell asleep. He is better now but I still sit with him at night and that is when he tells me about his day and his life in middle school. My youngest still wants to sleep in our bed but she is getting so big that there just isn’t room. If she really wants to we let her and then move her to her bed when we go to sleep. I never really worried about weather it was right or wrong to sleep alone or to co-sleep. We always just did what felt right and what made the kids feel safe and comfortable.

    1. Felt really good to read that. I wish even i could get the same treatment. I remember how i wept for three years every night. Because i was forced to sleep alone. And that thought still hurts me. I am an adult now. But i can still feel that pain as I wanted to stay with my mother every single second until i was dead sleep. But that stopped, when suddenly my mother decided that i should sleep alone in different room. That’s really hurting as a child. I wish parents could understand each child is not the same, their needs and emotions differ. Forcing a child to stay away from parent when they are not emotionally or mentally ready for that is the biggest mistake.

  23. This is a very well timed post for my family. Our 2 year old sleeps in our room in her own crib and I have been thinking about moving my 5 year old son into our room, in his own bed, and making it the sleeping room. I feel sad that everyone (including the dog) is in our room and he is alone in his. Most nights he ends up in our bed, which is hard for us to get good sleep. If all the kids were in their own beds, in our room, would we all sleep much better?

  24. I have often thought about the evolution of sleeping arrangements in our homes – I had entire seminar devoted to American Housing in undergrad. Really, if we are able to have a conversation about any options for sleeping, we are speaking from a position of wealth. When I made home visits as a teacher, I frequently entered homes with 6+ people sleeping in a 2 bedroom house. The discussion of people having their own rooms is a total luxury. (Not that people shouldn’t have that luxury – just making a point.) For many, the decline in multi-generational living has developed into a surplus of bedrooms!

    My firstborn slept in a crib in our room for one night only – I couldn’t sleep with his rustling and movement. Our second went straight into our room. The kids are now four and six and sleep together – they don’t think it’s fair that they have to sleep alone when their dad and I sleep together and it’s hard not to agree with their point.

  25. We lived in a really small house when my first was born, so he slept in our room in his bed right next to us. I liked having him close by and he liked being in there with us. When I was pregnant with my daughter two years later we tried to move him into his own room, but he was really reluctant to leave us, so often he’d still sleep in my daughter’s crib while my daughter co-slept with my husband and I.

    Here we are now, many years and a total of seven kids later. We live in a three-bedroom home on five acres. My three older boys (14, 11, 10) all share a room, and my now 12-year-old daughter shares a room with our 3-year-old and 2-year-old, while our 1-year-old still sleeps in our room. However, whenever any of them want to be in bed with us, we allow it — that usually means our 3-year-old more than any of the others though.

    Our kids DO sometimes wish they had their own room; however, they also have a lot of space to roam around here, so that does make up for it. As a parent, I do wish for more space, but NEVER for separate rooms. I know I personally shared a room, as the oldest, with my brother until I was 7, and then when my sister came along when I was 9 I shared a room with her until I left for college. There were frustrations about responsibilities and keeping it clean; however, I think it also made us a whole lot closer. It seems to be doing the same for my kiddos too.

  26. A read a great book while I was pregnant called Our Babies Ourselves written by Meredith Small a science journalist, anthropologist, and professor at Cornell University. The most profound thing I learned was that in ALL OF HUMAN HISTORY including all of the primates the only mothers that didn’t sleep with their babies where in the US and Western Europe in the last 100 years. That was crazy to me! Needless to say we co slept!


  27. Barbara Thornton

    This is a great example of a time to take a page from Amy Poehler’s book and say, “Good for you. Not for me.” Parenting is so personal and everyone’s choices are so different and equally valid! Here’s my experience for anyone who is interested. :)

    I don’t like sleeping alone, so I feel badly making my kids sleep alone! That being said, good sleep for everyone is so important to everyone’s mental and physical health at our house. Especially for my depression-prone, light sleeper husband. He barely likes sleeping with me. We have a California king bed and sleep with separate covers so we don’t disturb each other. Since we’ve had kids, we do a combination of things. Co-slept with the nursing babies (until about 10 months with firstborn, 8 months with second born, 6 months with third born). And now my bigger kids (who share a room, the toddler is still in a crib in her own room), end up in our room about half of the time in the middle of the night or early morning. Since they are large and tend to disturb our sleep, we have made a little bed on the floor next to us with an extra crib mattress that they can come into at any time, although sometimes they come into the big bed. We snuggle with them in their beds as they are falling asleep. I try to remember that nighttime parenting is still parenting, even though I’m exhausted. :)

  28. I was from a big family,, so sharing wasn’t optional.
    On the whole, I’m pro-sharing, as long as the kids are also able to have some quiet time to themselves to read, write, or just play from time to time.

    We also co-slept out of necessity since my babies all wanted to nurse every 1.5 hours and refused to sleep at night unless they were by my side. In retrospect, I can’t imagine putting my baby in a different room.

    It’s funny how kids’ personalities affect their best sleeping arrangement. My middle child sleeps better with someone else in the room, but my daughter is *cranky* when she’s tired and does better without anyone else in the room to incur her wrath O_O

    || https://secondgenhomeschooler.wordpress.com ||

  29. Whitney INgram

    Am I the first commenter to bring up how “hanky panky” can happen if you share a room with your kids??? How can that all work if there is no parental space? I am a big believer in having the master bedroom not only being off limits, but being the nicest room in the house. My kids have free rein of the rest of the house. My room is MY room.

    1. Yes…happens on the couch, guest bed, etc. And it doesn’t bother the little infant when shs’s in her bassinet by our bed!

    2. After the kids are in bed, you can literally have sex ANYWHERE. For us, it’s fun and feels more spontaneous that way anyway.

  30. My son is a deep sleeper who moves constantly throughout his sleep. Sharing a bed with him is quite comfortable cause he will literally try to use my head as a pillow. My daughter is a light sleeper and often comes to our bed in the middle of the night and that’s fine for us as long as she starts in her own bed. I firmly believe in good sleeping habits. Sleep is such a huge issue and can be a struggle well into adulthood. I just don’t think you can get a restful sleep with many people in a single bed.

  31. We co-slept with our babies and then there was a point when all three kids shared a room. Then, they boys shared a room and my daughter moved into her own tiny room. Our youngest (now 13) has never slept without another in his room so when his older brother left for college, the dog moved into his room (and sleeps on the bed). I, also, do not like to sleep alone so when my husband it out of town, I encourage anyone who wants to sleep with mom to hop on in. The dog usually takes me up on the offer. :)

  32. I always find it interesting that more people don’t have a co-sleeping arrangement. Our situation just keeps evolving. We’re always trying to find the current best fit. My daughter just turned two and the most recent iteration of our sleep is: she has a queen sized bed in her room. I lay with until she falls asleep, go to bed later with my husband, but if/when she calls for me I take my pilow and sleep with her. It gives her the security she needs, keeps my husband from getting kicked awake constantly, and feels natural for me to go to her when she needs me. I dont personally understand the constant desire for more and more independence. I figure she’ll get there eventually, there is no need for me to force it. But overall live and let live, amiright?

  33. I find it really hard to sleep with my daughter, though my husband has no problem! In order for me to get the sleep I needed we put her in her own room at 3months, and never let her to stay in our bed if she woke up at night, until we got a twin size bed for her that I could go sleep in and leave her and my husband. They have the same positions and expressions; it would be cute if it weren’t so annoying! It’s really just her as a preschooler on down where I had this problem though, now I often fall asleep while reading to her until she wakes me up and kicks me out of her bed!

    6 years later we’re expecting another, and I found these comments a really helpful reminder of how different these two kids are likely to be. I wonder if I’ll be able to sleep in the same room as the new baby?

  34. Sorry, but just because something doesn’t have a long history doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be doing it (see: vaccination, computers, airplanes, etc.) Not everything new is good, obviously, and sleeping in one’s own bed, alone, is certainly a luxury we should not take for granted, but for some people it’s definitely the best way for everyone to get some sleep.

    1. I agree! It just should not make people feel bad if they co-sleep or even tell them that it is dangerous, which it normally isn’t!

  35. Our kids shared a room with us until 4-ish. At some point, we put our mattress on the floor and their toddler beds next to ours so if they rolled out, it was onto our bed, so they had a soft landing. I figure we’re mammals and most mammals sleep together. In fact, I don’t know any mammal that doesn’t sleep near its young. I figure their brains develop such that they expect someone responsive to be close by and figure that I might as well work with evolution instead of against it. Now they all (3 of them) share a room together. They will sometimes climb into each other’s beds or come into our bed in the middle of the night and I let it it happen. They are still little mammals and little mammals like connection and warmth.

  36. Katharine Walmsley

    We have 2 year old twins and a 4 year old daughter and a few days after being very frightened by smoke detectors going off in the middle of the night our daughter declared that it was unfair that her brothers share a room and my wife and I share a room and that she is all alone! She got a sleeping bag and moved herself and all of her stuffed animals into our room. She stayed for a few nights and then moved back to her own room!

  37. I think one thing missing from this discussion is how families used to do everything together in the home and on the farm even from a very young age. If everyone is getting up to milk cows before dawn and work outside all day without the tractors, dishwashers, gas ovens, chainsaws, etc, then going to bed at the same time or close to it and in the same room probably wasn’t a big deal. A lot of things have changed and I think the change in sleeping habits reflect that.
    To chime in on sleeping arrangements, we have an 800 sq ft apartment for 7 people. At first I had all 5 kids in one room but my oldest 2 just can’t wind down if they have an audience. (Literally they can keep it up for hours) So I put the youngest 3 in one room, the oldest 2 in their own room but they take turns sleeping on the couch, so they are never in the room at bedtime together. My husband gets up super early sooo if I want to do anything at night, here I am in the bathroom so I don’t disturb anyone with the light on. It’s a crazy arrangement in some ways, but temporary.
    I would love to hear more about other cultures and their sleeping habits! Many still do co sleeping!

  38. I loved reading this. We live in a two bedroom home and our boys (4+2) share a room. Just found out yesterday we are expecting baby #3 who will eventually share the room with them. I sometimes feel guilty that we don’t have more space, but we love our cozy house and I enjoy reading about other families who make shared rooms work well.

  39. All three of my babies have slept in the same room as us, at least for the first 4-5 months. But I could never get comfortable co sleeping (Lots of irrational postpartum thoughts there), and in their own bassinet each was so noisy I would constantly wake from their noises and then to nurse, and more noises, etc…I did not sleep well. Now the older two (6&3) share a room and the baby is on his own so he won’t disturb the other two. But, as soon as he is old enough and sleeping well enough the plan is to have all three (boy, girl, boy) share the same room since its only for sleeping and toys are elsewhere. I like it because it seems fair-no one is left out of having their own room. And for now, at least, they really like it and enjoy having someone close by. My oldest also has asked why can’t he come sleep with me, daddy does. He wants to too, ha!

  40. I’ve thought about this often, even before having kids. So glad there’s more talk about it. Excellent article!
    While travelling in China, before children, my husband and I stayed with a family near the Kyrgyzstan border. They lived in a yurt, just one room, and the Mom, Dad, and 3 girls all slept together in one long bed. We slept in the same room with them, just a few feet away. When I first saw the sleeping arrangement, I was a little taken aback, but when it came time to sleep, it was totally comfortable. We all went to bed when the sun went down and it felt normal and natural.
    Ever since, I’ve thought about why our culture sleeps apart, but I was still fooled into believing that it’s unsafe for our children to sleep with us or it’s weird or it doesn’t give parents alone time. But, now that my kids are out of infancy, both my husband and I agree that they should sleep with us. Lately, we’ve been sleeping with at least one of them every night. We’ve realized that they won’t be little forever and we need to take advantage. I’ve also found that I sleep better when I’m touching another person, holding hands, even holding a little foot! I can always get back to sleep faster if I’m skin to skin with someone.
    My oldest moved to his own room about a year ago and has recently been saying that he feels lonely in there. He wants sleepovers with his brother and sister. So now we’re thinking about totally rearranging the kids so they’re all sleeping in the same room. They seem to like it, so why not?

  41. We have a son (almost 11 years old) who would sleep with us every night if he could. Our compromise is that we have regular sleepovers (sometimes as often as once a weekend but usually once a month on a weekend) where he comes into our bed much earlier than his usual bedtime and we spend about an hour either reading, playing games together on the iPad, or watching a movie in bed, and we always follow it up with a long D&M (deep and meaningful conversation.) These conversations are the most intimate we ever have with him and we’re always surprised at what he will reveal about his school day etc. Well beyond the usual ‘good’ response when he comes home from school. Aside from our own lives, the breadth and depth of topics we end up discussing is huge and these conversations are a brilliant way for us to help him think critically and explore themes that seldom come up in our day to day lives.

    I appreciate that this is easy for us to manage as we only have one child, but I imagine that if we had several children we’d have slumber parties in the living room and turn the whole floor into a soft area by dragging our mattresses into the room (as we have done for birthday party sleepovers.) We’re huge co-sleeping fans, but more to the point, it is the time spent before you drift off to sleep, either engaged in a deep conversation or giggling from being overtired, that makes co-sleeping such an incredible thing for all the family.

  42. My toddler started out in a cradle at birth, then a crib at 4 months—both in our room partly because we didn’t have enough bedrooms but mostly because it was just easier having her close at night to nurse. Then the 4 month sleep regression hit. After a week of her waking up every hour or so, I put her in bed next to me, and suddenly she was sleeping again. Bedsharing was not what we set out to do, but I did a lot of reading on safe bedsharing practices, and for us, it was the only way we all got sleep.
    Now my baby is a 20 month old toddler, and we’re starting to think about the next baby, which for me means weaning and probably changing our sleeping arrangements. She’ll stay in our room for now though, just on a separate sleeping surface with a bit more distance from the boob.
    And “hanky panky”? My husband and I have always had different bedtimes, so nightime sex has never been a thing for us. But morning and afternoon sex? Yes please. ;)

  43. My daughter slept so thoroughly and easily in her early days that we took credit for it! Ha! But when my son came, he did not. Ever. And it isn’t until now that he is 8 that I have finally realized that he hates being alone. Ever. And this includes the time when he is supposed to be sleeping and this has “caused sleep problems”. It has opened my eyes to the assumptions we make that are not necessarily rooted in anything more than Western capitalism and custom.

  44. We’ve had some really interesting sleep arrangements in our house. When my first was born he stayed in our room until he was about 4 months, then he moved to a crib. When he was about 15 months we lived with my parents for a few months and he slept with us in our bed. We moved to our new house right as his brother was born, so big brother had a crib in his own room and baby slept in a bassinet\pack in play for about a year in our room.
    Then my oldest didn’t want to sleep alone, so my husband slept with him in a separate room. Along came brother three and middle brother moved to his own room in a crib. Baby slept in a bassinet and older brother slept in a toddler bed in our room.
    Then when baby was 14 months, done nursing, and finally slept through the night. He got his own room (he was a super light sleeper) and middle brother moved into our room with big brother. So we had two kids sleeping in our room on mattresses for almost a year!!! Then when baby brother was two, I said, ENOUGH! So they all moved into the same room together and my husband and I finally have our room back! (although we are considering having baby #4) People think we are crazy, but that is what worked for us.
    They still love to sleep in our bed and sneak in whenever they get the chance. :)

  45. I’ve thought about this a lot, and about the historical precedent of cosleeping, because my son sleeps terribly. It’s been a constant battle since he was a newborn, and we have gone to sleep specialists and consultants, done every kind of sleep training there is, a sleep study, etc. without much improvement. It has always made me wonder if I had just planned to cosleep from the beginning if he would be a better sleeper. (Side note: we did cosleep at various points but it was not really planned).

    But…one thing I can’t really figure out when I read about this historical cosleeping (and think about present day co sleeping): what about naps? My kids have never napped well in a carrier except when they were very little, and their naps and nighttime sleep are so connected that any time they slept with me at night they also didn’t nap well without me holding/nursing them.

    Last thing: more than the cosleeping discussion, I think the most interesting point in that article was about couples sleeping separately! I read the article it linked to, and it’s crazy, yet really not surprising that people are even asking for two master bedrooms in new houses! My parents and grandparents both slept separately for years, but I always thought it reflected on their relationships. I’m willing to consider the idea that it doesn’t have to–I’m definitely intrigued!

  46. Melanie Gehman

    We are currently renovating our house and live in a one-room garage apartment with our 2 kids (9 and 6). We have been here for 6 months, and I will honestly miss the feeling of waking in the dark and having the people I love most within arms reach! The girls had seperate rooms before but now want to share a room. This experience has made us slow down, get more sleep, and become closer as a family.

  47. Definitely an interesting topic! I like my own room and bed, personally (though I’m not married/living with a significant other). My younger sister and I shared a room for 13 years and it was NOT a positive experience for either of us. We fought a ton, we tried every trick in the book to fairly divide the space, and the second my brother went to college (actually, the summer before while he was still living with us full-time), we convinced our parents to turn the dining room into his room and for me to move into his bedroom (the dining room was downstairs and I was afraid of burglars and my parents didn’t trust my sister to have a bedroom so close to the front door…). Our relationship improved so much after that. I did share rooms in college, which actually was fine, but I sleep better by myself. I don’t think I’d want any potential future kids to sleep in my room (or, for that matter, a snoring husband). I’m just too light of a sleeper.

  48. My sister and I shared a room when we were little, and when we moved into a new house, my older sister and I each got our own rooms (they were tiny) while my younger sister shared a larger room with my mom. So my younger sister shared a room (sometimes a bed) pretty much always growing up. Then she had roommates in college and then lived with boys. Through therapy, she realized that by never having her own space (among other things of course), it made it more difficult for her to be on her own – she would stay in relationships because she was afraid to be by herself. I think about this when I read about this topic. I do think there are many benefits for kids sharing rooms, especially when they are young, but I also think there’s a time for allowing them to have their own space and to become comfortable being by themselves.

  49. Lots of things are a ‘historical anomaly’. Not dropping dead at the first sign of bacterial infection is a historical anomaly. Washing your clothes in an electric appliance instead of beating them with a rock in the river is a historical anomaly. Having an education is a historical anomaly. We ‘make’ kids sleep alone because technological and social advances gave us the resources for larger living spaces and somewhere along the way many of us have figured out that if we place Junior down for his sleep on the other side of a wall, the whole family can sleep peacefully through the night instead of waking up 2 hourly because Junior got a whiff of Mummy’s breastmilk or heard the ruffling of the discount Anthropologie duvet as Daddy rolls over in bed for the 10th time that night. I’m fully embracing this historical anomaly!

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