On sharing sleep


I have never consistently slept well. I think it might be part of my overall brain atypicality. Long periods of insomnia, interspersed with jags of hypersomnia (in the hopes of somehow attaining balance? No clue). I am generally a very light sleeper, and have trouble falling asleep again once awoken. The search for restful sleep has been a bit of a holy grail for most of my life.

But.

I really seem to sleep well when I’m not by myself in the bed.

When my babies were tiny, they slept in my bed beside me. With the first, we had a crib, set up right beside the bed in our tiny one-bedroom apartment. I tried to put him in it for the first two, maybe three nights after he was born. He was actually totally fine with it. I couldn’t sleep. I stayed up all night, listening for him, worried that something would happen to him with him so far away. He also nursed for short periods very frequently in those first … well, forever, so even if I could fall asleep, I’d be awake again in a half-hour. But that was honestly the secondary reason for taking him into bed with us.

Sharing sleep with my partner was a given, so why wouldn’t the same be true for sharing sleep with my tiny child?

Things got a little more complicated when the girl was born. The boy had night-weaned at that point, but would wake up every time the baby nursed, which just made all of us chaotic and non-functional. He wasn’t ready to sleep alone at 20 months, so his dad and I decided that for the transition to 4, he and I would each sleep with a child, in different rooms. This eventually led to my sharing a twin bed with an infant for 5 months, but it was what she (and really, what I) needed. Having her in a separate bed would have led to no sleep for either of us.

When the kids’ dad and I split up, I slept with both kids in my bed for months. The boy eventually chose his own bed at about 3.5, and the girl was regularly in my bed for most nights until that age as well. At that point, I was tired of the frequent waking, early-rising sleep-talking little people who kept me from my precious precious sleep. I convinced myself with their eventual departure that I preferred to sleep alone, and that I wasn’t interested in sharing sleep with anyone.

You know what? Total lie. Over the last couple of years, I’ve realized just how much of a lie I was telling myself. The first time I slept over at a date’s house (kids were at my parents’ place), the SLEEP was actually the best part (and really, that’s sayin’ something, given how well the date went).

I rarely get full nights of shared sleep with my current partner, as he generally cannot stay the full night, but once or twice a week, I get to fall asleep with him in my bed. Most of the time, those nights lead to my most restful sleeps.

I don’t know if it’s the breath regulation, listening to someone else’s heartbeat, if it’s an emotional connection to the person beside me, or if it’s simply because my bed gets warm faster, but there are some days I look forward to sleeping more than anything else.

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2 Comments

  1. Carolyn said,

    March 27, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    I think that it’s very fortunate that you sleep well with another adult. I sleep well with children, but not adults. Adult snore and breathe loudly. 😉

  2. Shannon said,

    March 27, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    Perhaps I’ve just been pretty lucky. My kids move WAY too much for me to sleep well with them. The grown-ups? Less so, and rarely any snoring. 🙂


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