Sharing sleep safely: What you need to know

Consider the conclusions from these six studies:

  • Heron's recent cross-sectional study of middle class English children shows that amongst the children who never slept in their parents' bed, there was a trend to be harder to control, less happy, exhibit a greater number of tantrums. Moreover, he found that those children who never were permitted to bed-share were actually more fearful than children who always slept in their parents bed, for all of the night (1)
  • In a survey of adult college age subjects, Lewis and Janda report that males who co-slept with their parents between birth and five years of age had significantly higher self-esteem, experienced less guilt and anxiety, and reported greater frequency of sex. Boys who co-slept between 6 and 11 years of age also had higher self-esteem. For women, co-sleeping during childhood was associated with less discomfort about physical contact and affection as adults. (While these traits may be confounded by parental attitudes, such findings are clearly inconsistent with the folk belief that co-sleeping has detrimental long-term effects on psycho-social development.(2)
  • Crawford found that women who co-slept as children had higher self-esteem than those who did not. Indeed, co-sleeping appears to promote confidence, self-esteem, and intimacy, possibly by reflecting an attitude of parental acceptance. (3)
  • A study of parents of 86 children in clinics of pediatrics and child psychiatry (ages 2 to 13 years) on military bases (offspring of military personnel) revealed that co-sleeping children received higher evaluations from their teachers than did solitary sleeping children, and they were underrepresented in psychiatric populations compared with children who did not co-sleep. The authors state: "Contrary to expectations, those children who had not had previous professional attention for emotional or behavioral problems co-slept more frequently than did children who were known to have had psychiatric intervention, and lower parental ratings of adaptive functioning. The same finding occurred in a sample of boys one might consider "Oedipal victors" (e.g. three-year-old and older boys who sleep with their mothers in the absence of their fathers) -- a finding which directly opposes traditional analytic thought. (4)
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