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Family Bedtime: The Oldest Sleep ‘Trick’ in the Books

“When do your kids go to bed?”, I get asked frequently.

“Well, usually, we all just go to bed together, around 8 or 9 o’clock.”

This conversation usually raises some eyebrows! But, ever since my oldest was a baby, my family has slept in the same room. My kids have never had to go to sleep on their own. I bet you’re wondering if my husband and I are human… Ha! Yes, well sort of (what’s normal anyway?). We are busy with work and things we like to do.

If one of us has work to do at night, we take turns being the one to go to sleep with the kids. Occasionally, we both find ourselves awake after the kids have gone to sleep. But, at least a few days a week, the whole family crashes in bed, at the same time, in one big sleepy heap, on our two mattresses on the floor that are smooshed together.

And it’s awesome.

I’ve never had to chase my kids back to their beds because they sleep IN my bed. It’s actually so easy, I honestly can’t understand the fuss over bed time that our society has created.

The idea of having to chase kids back to their bedrooms, or reassure them in the middle of the night that they can be brave enough to sleep in their own room… sounds like a lot of work!

Family bedtime is so easy. Little kids won’t want to stay up if their parents are asleep and the whole house is dark. Believe me, if you announce you’re going to sleep, most kids will follow you. Little kids want to be with their parents at night, it’s really natural. It’s dark. It’s scary. I don’t like being in a dark room alone… why would a child?

Family bed time means my husband and I get more sleep because we go to sleep at the same time as the kids. The times when we do put the kids to bed and then stay up for a little living room ‘date’, are fun and all, but it can be such an effort! To have to peel ourselves up from that sweet cloud of children’s sleep, is no easy feat. When we do stay up late, we end up staying up way too late and wake up the next morning feeling pooped!

Kids go to sleep faster when the whole family goes to sleep at the same time. It doesn’t take long for kids to drift off when everyone is falling to sleep at the same time. But, if I’m sitting there waiting for them to fall to sleep, it can take AGES for the kids to fall to sleep! Kids feel the energy of you doing the agonising ‘wait‘ for them to fall to sleep! The longer it takes for them to drift off, the more resentful the parents get. The more resentful we get, the more our kids pick up on our vibes and it then it takes them even longer to fall to sleep!

Family bed time creates this beautiful sleepy energy that takes over everyone. I love the feeling when I know that this is the end of the day. Nothing else to do. I sleep next to my 2 year old son, he’s so warm and cuddly and I can feel when he drifts off and then it’s my body’s cue to do the same. Ahhh…

I’ve read a lot of parenting books, and almost all of them have dedicated entire chapters to bedtime strategies (actually, some books are ENTIRELY about sleep). How to get kids to go to their beds, go to sleep and stay there until a reasonable time in the morning…

Elaborate bedtime routines, sticker charts, bribes, systematic ignoring of crying… you name it. One particular popular parenting book I read, which I don’t even want to mention the name, suggests that it’s ok if your 4 year old child cries for 1-2 hours at night alone in their bed, as long as they’re physically ‘ok’ because you can just make up for it by positive parenting during the day. *facepalm*. The book gives the reader the message that under no circumstances should let your child into your bed, otherwise, God knows WHAT bad habits might form! (forgetting that children have been sleeping next to their parents since the beginning of time).

I sigh… as I snuggle close to my babes, I feel sad… What an effort it must be to follow the advice in those books!

And, for mornings, once a kid is awake, there’s not much else you can do about that. We get up too, but remember, if we went to bed early, it doesn’t matter as much. If your child is waking up really early and won’t sleep without you glued to their side, there are some things you can do, and I can save that for a later post!

Time goes really slow for a child, so if they’re sitting there at night or in the morning, waiting to be allowed to get up out of bed, even if it’s only half an hour, that half an hour can feel like an eternity for them!

Family bed time and family beds are so beautiful and easy. At the time of writing this, I have three kids, 8 1/2, 6 and 2. My 2 year old sleeps next to the 8 year old. I know that sometimes the little guy rolls into her. I asked her, “Does it bother you when he bumps into you at night?” She said, “No way! I love him, even if he bumps into me, I just wake up for a second and go back to sleep, because he’s sooooo cute!” We found an arrangement that makes everyone happy

Despite the fear that bed sharing will inhibit your child’s ability to be independent, some people (like me) would argue the opposite. That when a child feels safe and secure both day AND night, they will become every more confident and have less to worry about. For us, family bed time has been so easy. Yes, they are some of logistics to figure out, like, how do you and your husband ever have sex (well, we have three kids, so don’t be silly and look at India, they roomshare and they have a population of 1 billion people), and what happens if one wakes up crying, pee in the bed, etc. These are all real legitimate concerns and I think the answer is different for every family. And sometimes, one parent really cannot put up with room sharing, so then you have to accomodate for that in order to save your relationship. But, guaranteed, after a little trial and error, everyone finds some sort of system that works where needs for connection at night can be met.

Some nights (and these nights are rare), yes, we are all up because somebody got sick or there was a problem or something. But, 99.9% of the time, it’s beautiful cuddles. My kids feel safe and secure knowing that if they wake up at night for anything at all, somebody will be right there to help. And, I actually sleep better, knowing that everyone is safe and next to me! And, best of all… it’s all very VERY easy.

Disclaimer: If you’re going to bedshare with an infant, please make sure you read proper co-sleeping guidelines. Never sleep with your child if you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Young babies should sleep on a firm surface, away from any cracks, blankets or pillows or anything that could obstruct their airway.