Co-Sleeping: It’s Effect on Your Relationship with Your Spouse

cosleeping

Co-sleeping is practiced in many regions around the world.  Co-sleeping is when infants and young children sleep next to their parents in their bed instead of in their own rooms.  Senses are important in co-sleeping practice, as the five senses are utilized to detect the presence of one another.  Thus, a caregiver’s presence can impact a child whether the caregiver is right next to them or all the way across the room.  Co-sleeping is somewhat controversial as some believe that it poses safety risks to the child in regards to SIDS and suffocation, while others promote co-sleeping as an enhancement to attachment, breast feeding, and sleeping patterns.  Whatever your view is on co-sleeping, there is no question that the practice has a significant impact on a relationship.

First, co-sleeping has an obvious effect on a couple’s sex life.  A couple may have reduced opportunity to engage in romantic relations with each other if their child is always sleeping in their bed.  A decrease in sexual activity could trigger friction and conflict within a marriage.  Co-sleeping could also have the opposite effect on a couple’s sex life, as it can force a couple to find new places and times to engage in sexual activity.  A couple can find new and unique locations to have sex while a baby is napping, thus infusing novelty and excitement into their relationship.

Next, co-sleeping can have a significant effect on the quality and quantity of a parent’s sleep.  A child’s presence in the bed can make it difficult for a parent to obtain the right amount of restorative sleep, thus negatively impacting their moods, irritability, and decision making capabilities.  Lack of sleep and sleep deprivation can cause undue stress and conflict within a relationship.  If spouses are constantly battling exhaustion, they may not have the ability to exercise patience or engage in healthy decision-making.  Constant exhaustion can deteriorate a couple’s ability to engage in effective conflict resolution, causing an increase in arguments and disagreements.  Higher levels of irritability can cause couples to laugh less and to lessen gratitude for each other.  Increased conflict and arguing and less laughter and fun can undoubtedly spell trouble for a marriage.

Contrarily, co-sleeping can bring a couple closer to each other.  Everyone sharing the bed can help a couple to feel more bonded, not only with their child, but also with each other.  Co-sleeping can prompt couples to go to sleep at the same time, thus syncing up their sleep schedules.  As opposed to couples being on opposite schedules, co-sleeping can afford couples the opportunity to spend the maximum amount of time with each other, as they are sleeping and awake at the same times.  Co-sleeping may also help couples to feel like more of a cohesive team, actually enhancing their ability to problem-solve and communicate with each other.     

Co-sleeping can help to either improve or weaken parenting.  Co-sleeping allows some couples to be more organized and more on the same page when it comes to parenting decisions.  Contrarily, co-sleeping can also cause disorganization, fatigue, and irritability in one or both parents, further impacting parenting and relationships with the children.  One spouse may develop hostility and resentment for their partner if they are parenting differently or not treating the child with patience and kindness. 

Perhaps the most important takeaway is that couples need to be in unified agreement about co-sleeping arrangements before a child is even born.  Since co-sleeping undoubtedly has an impact on relationships, both good and bad, spouses should be aware of what co-sleeping arrangements entails along with possible impacts.  If spouses are on different pages in regards to their stance on co-sleeping before the baby is even born, marital discord down the road is almost certain.  

Tracy is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is a clinical supervisor for the Community YMCA, Counseling & Social Services branch. Tracy has over 12 years of experience working in many settings including partial care hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, community agencies, group practice, and school-based programs. Tracy works with clients of all ages, but especially enjoys working with the adolescents. Tracy  facilitates groups using art therapy, sand play and psychodrama.