June 19, 2009 Parental presence at bedtimes appears to have a greater negative impact on infant sleep than actual co-sleeping, according to a research abstract that will be presented on Wednesday, June 10, at SLEEP 2009, the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.
Results indicate that children who slept in a separate room obtained more sleep, woke less at night, had less difficulty at bedtime, fell asleep faster, and were perceived as having fewer sleep problems. These clinically significant differences were mostly observed in children who lived in primarily Caucasian countries, and not in countries that were predominantly Asian. Of parents from predominantly Caucasian countries, 11.8 percent reported bed sharing and 22 percent reported room sharing, compared with 64.7 percent and 86.5 percent in predominantly Asian Countries.
According to lead author Jodi A. Mindell, PhD, professor of psychology at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, Pa., past studies have always indicated that bed sharing is associated with increased sleep problems, primarily more night wakings in young children.
"However, it is likely that it is not the bed sharing or room sharing per se that leads to increased sleep issues," said Mindell. "Rather, most young children who sleep in a separate room fall asleep independently of their parents. These children are able to return to sleep on their own when they naturally awaken during the night, and thus have fewer sleep problems. Children who sleep in the same room as their parents usually have a parent helping them to fall asleep at bedtime, and will need that help again throughout the night."
The study involved data from parents of 29,287 infants and toddlers from Australia, Canada, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, United States, United Kingdom and Vietnam. Parents completed an extended version of the Brief Infant Sleep Questionnaire. Co-sleeping was categorized as bed sharing, room sharing in a separate bed, and sleeping in a separate room.
Authors of the study were surprised by the fact that parents of children from predominantly Asian countries are almost always present when their child is falling asleep at night, whether their child sleeps with them or in a separate bedroom.
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