Growing up with a twin sister, my sister and I always shared a room, and we always loved it. I can remember many nights of staying up late talking... and talking... and talking! I can remember jumping from bed to bed when as kids when we were supposed to be sleeping, waking each other up to tell each other about our dreams, rearranging our room and coming up with fun ways to decorate it. We never wished for our own rooms. Many siblings do enjoy room sharing, even if they don't physically have to. My kids are 2 and 4 years old and they love sharing a bedroom, even though they each have their own rooms. They are best friends, and will beg for me to put my daughter's mattress on her brother's floor sometimes.
Room sharing can be great for sibling bonding, and can help babies and toddlers feel comforted by each other's presence, and it can also be a space-saver if needed! Here are five tips for getting great sleep when siblings are room sharing:
1. Sleep train first. If one of your kids is not sleeping well, sleep train before moving them into the same room (if possible). It can be helpful to move the sibling who does sleep well to another space temporarily during the initial days of sleep training, when sleep will likely be the most disrupted. If both kids need to be sleep trained, and you're planning to use the same method for both kids, it's fine to keep them both together in the room for sleep training.
2. Use a sound machine. A white noise machine between the two beds can help mask the sounds. Don't rush in or worry that a little fussing from one in the night will wake up the other. They can learn to sleep through it and ignore it. My older child can sleep through his little sister crying loudly, even when she's right next to him. The white noise helps, but they can also learn to sleep through each other.
3. Aim for their morning wake-up time to be the same. If their sleep needs differ, it's fine to stagger bedtime and put one of them to bed earlier than the other. Aim for them to wake up at close to the same time, and if they're old enough, you can use a toddler alarm clock and allow them to play together until it turns green. My kids are 2 and 4, and they both go to bed around 7pm and wake up just before 7am (or a little after 7am), and they play together in my son's bedroom until his toddler clock flashes at 7:35am.
4. Calming, consistent bedtime routine. Make sure the room is dark, safe, and not too stimulating at bedtime. Do a calming and consistent bedtime routine so they are both ready for sleep when you lay them, down, rather than walking out while they are still energized and in "play mode."
5. Clear expectations and boundaries. The first time my kids shared a room, my daughter was a year old and in a pack-n-play, and her brother was 2.5 years old and in a toddler bed, and he helped her climb out of the crib and they started playing. I came in and was very firm and clear that this was not acceptable, and after that, I staggered their bedtime, so the baby went to bed first and then older brother went to bed. Now that they're older, they both understand boundaries and expectations and when they do have a sleepover in the same room, they know they aren't allowed to get out of their beds. Let your kids know ahead of time what the expectations are, and stay firm with sticking to them. Naptime may be more challenging for room-sharing siblings since their drive to sleep isn't as strong as nighttime, and may go better if you separate them during nap time or "quiet time" if they aren't napping.
Although some people may have negative associations associated with siblings sharing a bedroom these days, keep in mind that siblings have been sharing bedrooms for centuries. Kids having their own private bedrooms is relatively new, and is Western norm. Across the globe, sibling room-sharing is very common. Kids can bond, thrive, and learn relational skills while room-sharing with siblings. It can be a very positive experience.
What about you? Did you share a room with a sibling growing up? Did you enjoy it? Do your kids share a room? Leave a comment and share!
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Pediatric Sleep Consultant