We experience a number of sleeping conditions during our lifetime. We leave the warmth and security of the womb and spend the early years in the safety of a cot. As we grow up we might have a number of different beds and bedrooms. When we leave home we may spend a few years on our own and then find a partner and embark on the next stage of our ‘sleeping’ life.
At each stage we adapt not only to the changes in the body and mind but to different conditions and circumstances. For some, this has little affect o their sleep. For others, poor sleep may result at different stages.
Sleeping with Babies
Pregnant women often suffer from insomnia – particularly during the third trimester. Hormonal changes, the movements and weight of the baby and anticipation make it hard to get enough sleep. Some say this is nature’s way of preparing you for life after birth!
A newborn baby will wake during the night and need feeding and attention. After 6 months they will start to adapt and sleep during the night, slowly adjusting to night and day.
During this time it is tempting to bring baby into your bed. Mothers are programmed to respond to a babies needs and usually sleep lighter than fathers, who are not as sensitive to a baby’s cry.
Babies needs for a good night’s sleep differ from an adult. They need to be in a warmer room than an adult, and are less disturbed by noise and light. Creating an environment that will help you sleep may affect the quality of your baby’s sleep.
Babies should be kept warm and put to sleep on their back. They should be snug but not too warm that they overhead. They should have room to move with their heads free to lose heat. They should adapt to a bedtime routine that helps them fall asleep feeling comfortable and secure.
By helping baby sleep peacefully through the night, you will be able to concentrate on your own needs for a good night’s sleep. By gently returning baby back to the cot you will be helping to install good sleep habits and allowing yourself the opportunity to recuperate for the challenges of the day.
The cuddles can wait till the morning!
Sleeping with Siblings
As children grow older, sharing a bedroom may be a necessity or a choice. The number of children you have and the number of bedrooms will dictate whether they can have a room of their own or need to share.
Children’s bedrooms often double as playrooms and studies. They will be less influenced by the distractions than an adult, and a healthy child will usually fall asleep when tired. Some children may find it harder to sleep than others and children of different ages will have different bedtimes. This may work well, with the younger child being able to fall asleep before an older child.
Younger children may wake during the night and seek the security of the parental bed. They should be taken back to their own bed and some thought given to why they are waking and if there is anything that is causing them to wake. A warm drink and staying with them in their bedroom will usually help them back to sleep.
Disputes may arise but this does not usually affect sleep. If children have very different sleep patterns then one, or both may suffer. This is more likely to affect older children if the bedroom is also their study. It is important to try and install a respect for each other’s need for sleep and notice if they are showing signs of lack of sleep. Not enough sleep will affect their health and ability to learn at school. It is important that any conflict that is affecting their ability to get a good night’s sleep is recognised.
Adolescents and Teens
As they become older, the need for privacy increases. Again it is not always possible for a teenager to have their own bedroom but they will appreciate some ‘me’ time and less control over their environment.
Sharing a bedroom may lead to more chat and less sleep. They will also start to sleep later and may need to make up for Sleep Debt by the occasional lie in. This is normal, and you should not be too worried unless they start to show signs of potential sleep problems.
With the demands of school and peer pressure, some older children may find it hard to sleep. Sharing a room may provide friendship and support and be helpful during this difficult age. Others may feel stifled and need an opportunity to be alone. Finding a compromise is difficult when space is limited but it is important to try and find an arrangement that will help all parties get a good night’s sleep.
Sleep and Growing Up
Your children will benefit from learning how to adapt to different sleeping experiences. By learning the importance of a good night’s sleep and the need to respect others need for sleep, they will be able to adapt to different circumstances. Sleeping with others teaches tolerance and sensitivity – tools which we all need in the day and during the night.