Every parent has experienced being awakened during the night by a young child wandering into their bed. But why do children wish to share our beds? And why are they so unwilling to slumber alone?
Children have slept in separate bedrooms from adults for a comparatively brief period of time in human history. Historically, families and other social groups slept together.
As early as the 5th century, medieval records of European sleeping patterns indicate that sleep was a social and communal practice in which it was common to welcome visitors or passing travelers into the bedroom or for multiple family members to sleep in the same bed.
It was commonly believed that sleeping with others would increase personal security, conserve resources, and generate warmth. Few people could afford separate resting accommodations, so the choice of bedmates reflected existing social and community relationships and structures.
Individual sleeping accommodations became more prevalent around the 15th century and were regarded as a sign of the burgeoning affluence and prosperity in many western countries. Gradually, social norms regarding who could sleep with whom shifted, and this continued to reflect broader shifts in sociocultural and familial values concerning belonging, identity, caring, intimacy, and independence.
Mammals are biologically programmed to slumber with their offspring for warmth, survival, priming, and attachment. The majority of mammals sleep near together (defined as “in close enough proximity to exchange at least two sensory stimuli, such as touch, smell, movement, sight, and/or sound”). Human infants are the most immature mammals at birth and require a greater amount of care than other mammals.
Who lies with whom is affected by sociocultural values. We’re social creatures. Being together, accepted, and adored is essential for our development and well-being, as well as our capacity to comprehend our position in the world.
The Shared Bed Phenomenon: Insights into Adult-Child Co-Sleeping
Despite the availability of more distinct sleeping accommodations than ever before, the overwhelming majority of adults share their bed with a partner, child, or even a pet. Children may be motivated to slumber with adults due to separation anxiety or a feeling of unavailability from their caregivers, particularly during vulnerable periods (such as the night). The same attachment urge may motivate some parents to spend the night in close proximity to their child. It is also instinctive for parents to be together so that their children feel secure and protected.
However, sharing a bed is not always conducive to the rigors of modern life, such as having parents who require a good night’s sleep for work the following day. And why would you if you do not have to share a bed? We are also aware of the importance of sleep to health, which includes adults. Therefore, “co-sleeping” may not be in the best interest of everyone’s health.
There are numerous biological, cultural, historical, and scientific explanations for why infants choose to slumber with their caregivers. Despite the fact that most young children, if given the option, would prefer to lie in the big bed with a parent, this is not always the best solution for a restful night’s slumber.
Professor Sarah Blunden is the director of paediatric sleep research at Central Queensland University and a clinical psychologist. She is the founder and director of the Paediatric Sleep Clinic and the Australian Centre for Education in Sleep.
Source: The Guardian