It's no secret that the decision to co-sleep (or not) with a child can be significantly motivated by cultural values, geography and social status. But a recent survey shows maybe gender is a larger part of the equation that we thought.
In an Amerisleep survey shared exclusively with Mom.me, 2,000 people in the U.S. were asked about their sleeping habits and preferences. Surprisingly, 54 percent of men said they were against sleeping with their kids, compared to 43 percent of women. Men also said sleeping with children wasn't comfortable in any size bed. But for women, the closer they are to the kids the better, as 65 percent believed sharing sleep space with their children was most comfortable in a twin-sized bed.
There's been much division among American parents and experts about the safety of co-sleeping and even what co-sleeping entails. Do you bring baby into bed with you at night? Is napping OK? How young is too young and how old is too old? Or do you just not allow any sort of bed-sharing or room-sharing, period? Depending on who you ask, co-sleeping will either create clingy children or foster their independence, lead to more quality sleep for both parents and kids or cause sleep deprivation, and ruin parents' sex life and marriages or improve them.
This controversial nature of co-sleeping even among partners was brought center stage recently when a dad shared a photo of his wife co-sleeping with their baby and toddler. The Facebook post was triggered by the dad overhearing another mom ask his wife, "Doesn't your husband hate that? My husband would never let me do that," in reference to co-sleeping.
But in many countries around the world, moms wouldn't even second-guess co-sleeping with their child.
"Sleeping patterns are so tied to the importance of kinship for most cultures," Dr. Carolyn Schwarz tells sleep site Van Winkles. "The idea of a crib or separating children physically to sleep would be considered unimaginable, even neglectful."
During infancy, bonding and sense of safety are huge reasons moms decide to co-sleep.
"With only 25 percent of its brain developed at birth, the human infant 'expects' and depends on proximity and contact with its caregiver's body, usually (but not always nor necessarily) the mother. Sleeping close to your infant is not simply a nice social idea but, for the infant, it represents a form of expected physiological regulation and support," explains James McKenna, a professor who has studied co-sleeping for more than 30 years.
Other interesting findings from the Amerisleep survey include:
- Top reasons parents wake up when co-sleeping with kids: kicking (76 percent), tossing and turning (75 percent) and children sneaking onto their side of the bed (71 percent).
- Parents were most likely to sleep through kids farting (16 percent), sleepwalking (21 percent) and drooling (23 percent).
- Even if kids aren't in the picture, only 14 percent of people who share the bed with a partner make it through the night without waking, compared to 23 percent of those who sleep alone.
- Of those who sleep with a partner, 49 percent wake up one to two times a night and 20 percent wake up three to four times.
- Some 63 percent of women say it's comfortable to sleep with a partner, compared to 57 percent of men. For those who say it's uncomfortable, women were least comfortable bed-sharing on a California king while men were least comfortable on a twin.
RELATED: How to Protect a Newborn From SIDS
Late last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics made a subtle but important revision to their sleep guidelines for babies under age 1. While their goal is to reduce the risk of sleep deaths in babies (more than 3,500 babies in the U.S. die suddenly and unexpectedly in their sleep due to SIDS, accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed), the AAP also acknowledges that in reality, sometimes parents can't help but co-sleep. If you decide to bed-share, be sure to read and follow safety guidelines.