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Sweeter slumber for tots who sleep solo.

Sweeter slumber for tots who sleep solo

Many a toddler has climbed into bed with mommy and daddy after waking from a nightmare or thunderstorm in the wee hours of the morning. While a new study gives that infrequent practice the nod, the researchers warn that tots who get in the habit of sleeping with their parents may suffer chronic sleep problems.

Pediatrics have long advised parents against allowing children in their bed, citing a host of dangers including behavioral problems for the child and in some cases sexual abuse. The new research, while not addressing the issue of abuse, offers reassurance that infrequent bed sharing usually causes no general adjustment difficulties for the child.

Deborah Madansky and Craig Edelbrock of the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester interviewed 303 parents of 2- and 3-year-olds. In 55 percent of the households, they found, parents occasionally allowed children into their bed for at least part of the night. Another 25 percent reported frequent -- more than once a week -- bed sharing with young children.

Questionnaires administered to parents at the study's outset revealed no link between behavior difficulties and occasional bed sharing. However, toddlers who routinely slept with their parents more than once a week proved 10 times more likely to dislike sleeping alone and up to four times more likely to resist going to bed than children who rarely or never slept with their parents. Such difficulties persisted or worsened in children who continued to sleep with their parents regularly through the course of the year-long study, the team reports in the August PEDIATRICS.

While parents may think they're helping restless tots, the study suggests that habitual bed sharing makes it more difficult for the child to get a full night's sleep. People of all ages wake up periodically throughout the night, Madansky notes. She recommends that parents encourage small children to go to bed alone and to fall back asleep without waking the rest of the household.

"Most parents who are committed to solving their child's sleep problems can solve them," she asserts. Madansky advises parents to stop reinforcing the child's nocturnal visits and to offer a morning reward for a successful -- and solo -- night's sleep.
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Author:Fackelmann, Kathy A.
Publication:Science News
Date:Aug 11, 1990
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