Sharing sleep: An in-depth look

Benefits of sharing sleep

There are numerous benefits to co-sleeping. A little background in the science of sleep will help to make these more apparent. There are two main stages of sleep: light/active/REM (rapid eye movement) and deep/quiet/non-REM. Dreaming occurs during REM sleep. During an average eight hours of sleep adults spend six hours in quiet sleep and two hours in REM. Research has shown that REM sleep may be necessary for the brain to mature. The younger the human the greater the percentage of REM sleep they engage in. The early fetus has almost 100 percent REM sleep, the infant has 50 percent, adolescents and adults have 20 percent and the elderly have 15 percent. Babies also have shorter sleep cycles. The adult sleep cycle is about 90 minutes (REM sleep four times per night). The infant's cycle is 50 to 60 minutes. Waking occurs most easily when transitioning from quiet sleep to REM sleep so there are more times when the infant might awaken. Babies also enter sleep differently than adults. Adults go quickly into quiet sleep without going through REM sleep. Infants first go into REM sleep for about 20 minutes and then through a transitional phase to quiet sleep. They are easily awakened during this time. As they mature they become able to go directly into quiet sleep. The age at which this occurs varies. In some babies it is as early as three months but is probably around eight months on average. Sleep cycles play an important role in the benefits of co-sleeping.

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