How to Put an End to Bed Sharing

Calling it quits on the communal bed can be difficult for the child and the parent. Make the transition easier with these tips

Photography from iStockphoto

Photography from iStockphoto

I like cuddling with my kids, so my husband and I have been lax about sending them back to bed when they hop in ours for a snuggle. Unfortunately we share a queen-size bed and have three children. Unless we make like Brad and Angelina and build a custom giant-size bed, we just don’t have room for everyone to sleep comfortably. Ultimately, I end up awake at 3 a.m. with a foot in my face.

“Bed sharing can be fine as long as everyone in the family is okay with it and the whole family is getting a good night’s sleep,” says Aimée Coulombe, a member of the Better Nights, Better Days sleep team at Halifax’s Dalhousie University. If not, something has to change.

Teaching Your Child to Sleep on Their Own
Waking in the night is normal, but children who have trouble falling back to sleep may come into their parents’ bed. You need to teach your child to settle back to sleep on their own instead of walking into your room. “The best place to start is to look at how your child falls asleep,” says Coulombe. If she wakes up and the circumstances are different than when she fell asleep, your child may come to you. Begin by teaching your child to fall asleep on her own, in her own bed. If you lie down with your child until she falls asleep, make an effort to stop. Sleep environment changes could be as simple as going to sleep with a light on in the hall and waking up to darkness, or going to sleep with background noise and waking up to silence. In these cases, adding a low-wattage nightlight or white noise machine can help comfort your child back to sleep on her own.

Stay Consistent
If your child continues to sneak into your bed at night and you want to make a change, pick a week where you can be consistent. “You need to send a clear message to your child,” says Jodi Mindell, PhD, author of Sleeping Through The Night (William Morrow). “Return your child to their bed every time,” says Dr. Mindell. If your child is able to sneak in without you hearing, that may mean putting a bell on your door so you can hear when he enters. “As long as you’re consistent, your child will soon get the message.”

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