January 3, 2007 8:55 PM

Siblings sharing beds - advice, please

I don't have experience on this one - does anyone out there?

Dear Barbara,

I have a question for a mother-of-many and guessed you would be a great person to ask. I have just 2 little boys barely 2 & 4 years old. They're 21 months apart, and the 4 year old has special needs and wakes several times a night crying. When he was a toddler, he got a virus and rash and stopped speaking and developed sensory problems. He might be on the autistic spectrum. If we sleep with him while out of town or when he is sick etc, he sleeps through the night, but we do not co-sleep.

His little brother has asked to sleep in big brother's bed, and big brother wants to sleep with little brother. Tonight they actually climbed into the twin bed and got under the blankets at bedtime. I have been thinking for a long time that our 4 year old would sleep through the night if he slept with his brother or if he had a dog. I receive so much (worldly) counsel about how I should force him to be strong and not dependent, but I really believe this comfort of sleeping with his brother would be good for him and make their bond even stronger.

As a mom of children with special needs & perhaps differing sleep habits, do you have advice for me? Have you ever had your children share a bed? I have also thought I could put them in the same room in their own beds, but they would probably end up in the same bed anyway. ;) If we will put them in the same bed, now is the time while little one wants to.

Thank you for any insight you have to share!
Honey :)


Posted in Mothering | Permalink


I have no practical experience in this area, but I do know quite a bit about social history. My first thought up[on reading this question was: Well, siblings used to sleep in the same bed all the time!

In the 19th century and earlier, it was the norm for brothers to sleep together. (And for sisters to sleep together, too.) And if anything, earlier generations were *more* strong and independent.

Food for thought.

Posted by: Kristina | January 3, 2007 9:46 PM

Hi Barbara,
I just responded to this exact same question on Shereen's blog.
Here's my answer:
My boys age 7 and 4 have 1 twin bed in their room and share. My 8 yo boy complains that he has his own room!
My 3 girls (5, 2, 1) share a room, but have their own beds, and I almost always find the 5 and 2 yo in bed together, and occasionally all 3 of the girls piled up like puppies sleeping.
Even in our country, each child sleeping in their own bed is a very, very recent thing. They used to almost always share with a sib. And still do, in other countries.
As long as one boy is not harrassing the other, and they are not staying up playing all night (reason my 8 yo does NOT share a bed!), they are fine.
A 4 yo with sensory problems doesn't NEED to grow up and be tough. He needs to be treated like a child and have his needs met, so he can develop properly and develop appropriate coping mechanisms. Don't feed the babies to the wolves yet! Trust me, he won't be wanting to drag his brother to bed with him when he's grown and married!
Besides, my tough, grown up construction worker husband doesn't sleep alone either ;)

We had a family bed when all of my children were nursing - my mind boggles when nursing moms of newborns complain about going upstairs to another room on another floor to feed their babies - no wonder they're worn out! I much prefer the roll over, offer the other side, and go back to sleep approach - and not training the babies to scream for food is a bonus, too!

Also, as far as naptime, I have one girl sleep in my room on my bed because if I don't separate them, they won't go down! We also use sleeping bags a lot.

Mama Says

Posted by: Milehimama | January 3, 2007 9:50 PM

I wholeheartedly recommend it. My kids have all slept with us and/or each other at some point in their lives. They still do most of the time in some combination (I have 4.) I honestly can't see a down side to it, except that they giggle and talk and stay awake soemtimes longer than I wish.


Posted by: Leslie | January 3, 2007 10:08 PM

My sister and I shared a bed from the time she was 3 and I was 5 until we were about 8 and 10. We had fun and disputes along the way. More fun when we were smaller and more disputes as we got older.

I think that if you feel it could benefit your situation - go for it. I also believe it's great for sibs to share rooms. We're planning on bunking our two (now 2 and newborn) as soon as #2 is out of the crib - even though we have a separate bedroom for him now.

I hope your situation works out great! Let us know.

Posted by: Shelly | January 3, 2007 10:11 PM

I dont' know about special needs kids, but my girls sleep together more often than they sleep in their own beds. They are 6 and 8 and are very bright, self-aware, and confident kids.

Posted by: Gem | January 3, 2007 10:26 PM

I have two boys ages 7 & 6 and they have recently started sharing a bed (the top bunk) by their own choosing. It started when we moved into our new house and the older son had trouble adjusting to the new room. However, it's been exciting the see the bond it has created between them. They run right off to bed every night excited to sleep together. I don't see a problem with it as long as they go to sleep.
Hope this helps!

Posted by: JulieP | January 3, 2007 10:50 PM

I slept with my sisters until I was probably about 12. They are some of my favorite memories. We are still very close. My 3 girls (13,13,2) all sleep together in some configuration.

Sometimes their brother (5) joins them too, but he likes his sleeping space :-)

force him to be strong and not dependent
I don't think that's something you can force. Is it really something you would want anyway? I want my kids to learn to rely on each other.

And, how sweet is it to see them curled up sleeping next to each other?

Posted by: whimsy | January 3, 2007 10:51 PM

My brother and I shared a room until we moved to a bigger house when I was in third grade. We missed each other and had "sleep-overs" all the time.

My two older children, a boy who's five and a girl who's three, have sleep-overs now, too. They have their own rooms, but for a while my daughter was having a hard time going to sleep, but she did great when she was in her brother's room. There are seperate beds, so they don't share a bed in his room, but they still have a blast. They also have "camp-outs" on the floor of my daughter's room, when they get to sleep on a sleeping bag and have their little lanterns and they're together.

I've actually read quite a bit about the benefits for children who share rooms with siblings. It's hard to be alone, especially if you're little and nighttime is scary. My youngest is a boy and we've considered moving him in with his older brother when he's a better roommate. If my boys were as close in age as yours, I do it for sure! A lot of my friends have moved their same sex siblings into the same room, even if they have enough room. I even know two adult brothers who chose to share a room because they're such good friends.

I don't have any experience with special needs, but kids are kids, right? They all want to be near someone they love. Your instincts seem to be good. I'd follow them. You can always change the sleeping arrangement if it doesn't work out.

Posted by: Lucy | January 3, 2007 11:01 PM

I have a theory that the desire to not sleep alone is inborn. Have you ever noticed how children who sleep alone usually prefer a stuffed animal or blankie or some other comfort object? Kids really crave the security of having something/someone to snuggle with.

And like someone else said, until recently, children and families routinely shared beds.

Posted by: CharityGrace | January 4, 2007 8:41 AM

We cosleep in various different forms. My four year old who isn't particularly special needs except that she is special and has intense needs LOL doesn't even sleep every single night all by herself. For that matter, neither do I, nor my husband, and certainly not my toddler. I am hoping mine do cosleep as I think it helps with bonding, sibling rivalry, and just plain being close to another human being, which is something I feel Americans lack. We are so greedy of our space!
I wouldn't listen to any advice about forcing independence on any of your children, special needs or not. Independence comes unless hindered. When your children start asking to sleep alone (and it will happen!) you'll realize you didn't need to "do" anything to force independence.
I grew up cosleeping due to large family/small house and I resented it around age 12-15, but I look back at those days with fond memories now.

Posted by: Marsha | January 4, 2007 8:43 AM

I agree with all of the above; I will also like to add the fact that in most other countries, co-sleeping with parents or siblings is the norm, not the exception. I slept between my grandma and my aunt until I was about 8 years old, and to this day I feel so safe around them; after that I moved to my own twin bed, but my grandma and aunt's bed was right next to mine; I know it sounds weird, but we are talking about a rural place in Mexico and about a two room house; one room was the "bedroom" and the other room was the kitchen/dinner/little convenience store. My parent's house was right next to my grandmas house, but my "home" was grandma. Then we moved and I co-slept with my little sister until I was a teenager. There is nothing like climbing in a warm bed occupied by someone you love in a cold night, specially in rural Mexico, where heater systems are unheard of :-)

Posted by: LadyLovas | January 4, 2007 9:12 AM

I am not a special needs mom, but I was a product of a shared bed.

It was nice as a child to have someone there to comfort me, giggle and laugh with, and feel the warmth of on cold nights.

I not only shared a bed with my sister, but for a time, I shared with a younger cousin (this stopped abruptly after she threw up on me and I refused to sleep with her again) who lived with us for a year.

I think it would benefit both of your children, special needs or not. It doesn't foster dependence or indepedence, in my opinion. I think it would foster a good relationship between the two boys as well.

Posted by: Linda | January 4, 2007 10:47 AM

Have you ever seen a litter of puppies or kittens sleeping? They sleep all piled on top of each other when they sleep.

So it is with kids. My kids have a twin, a crib and a double bed for the youngest four - and they still all end up like a litter or puppies on the twin bed looking snug and peaceful. I love it and I will miss it when the finally get so big that they really do need their own beds!

Posted by: Elena | January 4, 2007 11:09 AM

I shared a room and bed with my sister for years growing up. After I had my own room I ended up sleeping in one or other of my sisters rooms in their bed every single night. My kids have shared rooms forever (except for my 16 yr old son who has had his own room now for a couple years). I have a special needs son who shares a room (not the same bed) with his younger sister. He does not like being in a room alone and I wouldn't dream of making him. Both he and his sister like sharing a room and they sleep fine that way. My son does NOT sleep well alone in a room. I feel that it is definitely a benefit to share a room. Better sleep, no fear etc. If they were the same sex I would have no problem with them sharing a bed if they wanted to. Down through the ages siblings have shared beds. It's todays 'over-the-top' materialism that has contributed to the 'my own bed, my own room' way of thinking. At least that's my opinion! Let them share and get a good night's sleep!

Posted by: Beckie | January 4, 2007 11:29 AM

My dh grew up sharing a bed with his brothers. I think it's pretty normal for human beings. Our two enjoy falling asleep in the older one's bed, but they are both such lawnmowers that I usually separate them just to avoid black eyes. :D

Posted by: Margaret | January 4, 2007 1:24 PM

I am the mother of a 6 year old girl and 3 1/2 year old boy. Our son has failure to thrive, a g-tube and sensory issues (but does not show any signs, yet, of autism). We stopped his pump feedings in July 2006 because he was not sleeping through the night because he awoke when we tried to connect him to the feeding pump. At that point, he began sleeping in the same bed with his sister...now he sleeps through the night, and she sleeps better, also. I am happy to have them in the same room for a few more years, until she (or he) either asks to be in their own room, or we feel like it is time for them to be in their own room.

Posted by: Emily | January 4, 2007 10:22 PM

My mother never slept alone in a bed after she left the crib. She grew up sleeping in a double bed with TWO adult aunts. In my extended family this was not unusual since large families were common and many generations shared small homes.

I'd say that if neither child minds--go for it. Be ready to be flexible about it later if someone decides he needs to sleep solo. But at this age, they probably enjoy the comfort of someone else nearby.

(I think my own little guy--6 years younger than his next sibling--would love to have had a twin he could sleep with. He just likes the company.)

Posted by: Barb Szyszkiewicz | January 5, 2007 10:45 AM

Thank you for all the helpful input! We decided to do a trial run last night, and the boys were so excited, but once we left the room, it took about a minute until there were tears, and they were both out of the bed. We will ask them if they want to try again later. Little one wants to try again but wants to bring his own little bed. :)

Posted by: Honey | January 5, 2007 12:25 PM

'co-sleeping' or family beds, I really don't see what the matter is? Until this century, mid way through it really, people were lucky if they had a bed at all, and if they did, they shared regardless of how many people were in a family.

Posted by: mcewen | January 5, 2007 10:28 PM

I think it is really great you have given it so much thought! If the boys want to sleep together and your son does better, not worse with his brother there- then go for it. I might suggest getting a full size bed to offer more room than a twin. My children all have their own beds, but they do sometimes go in eachothers bed. It is especially nice when one child is sick and needs ro recover not spread the germies!

Posted by: Angela | January 7, 2007 2:58 PM

I came here when doing a search on siblings sharing beds. My youngest sister and her family recently moved in with us and her kids (twin 5 year old boys and a 2 year old boy) share a twin sized bed. Though according to my sister, the 2 year old usually ends up sleeping with them. I have two sisters and when we were growing up, we shared a bed til we got a bunk bed and daybed (we'd always wanted a bunk bed). Occasionally I'd sleep with my grandparents (I DID NOT like sleeping by myself, I'd have nightmares). So I do not see anything wrong with kids sharing beds. I know my grandmother (whom we live with) and her sisters shared a bed when they were younger. But when my fiancee asked if the boys share a bed and I said they do but the 2 year old usually ends up sleeping with his parents, he said that was just wrong. I commented about people sharing beds when having sleepovers and stuff and he said sleepovers are one thing but three brothers sleeping in the same bed was gross. And since he thinks my sister and her fiancee do drugs, he told me I must be inhaling too much second hand dope smoke.

Posted by: Michelle | September 15, 2012 2:12 PM

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