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Anxiety and Stress Disorders (Children)

Why Should Children Sleep Alone?

04/21/2008

Question:

I`ve often been told children should sleep alone in their own bed but for past millions of years every other mammal has their children sleep close and in site of their mother-same with humans until perhaps the past 70 years... Friends I know whose parents made them sleep alone take anti-anxiety medicines and seem to have developed social phobias whereas other friends who slept either in the same room as parents or with older siblings seem to have normal, loving family lives...any connection? For millions of years, children lived in the same cave, wigwam, teepee, tent, or loghouse as their parents, in site or beside their mother, why change this now?

Answer:

I do not have either a philosophical argument or a cultural one. From a medical point of view there is no right or wrong position, except that we all need sleep. The context in which that biological need is fulfilled is beyond the scope of my expertise. Typically young children will have fears which occur often at night in the context of going to bed. They need reassurance and persistence to overcome those fears. When and if the fears interfere with the biological drive for sleep is really the issue. Anxious individuals have trouble sleeping and cognitive behavioral approaches with adults and children to help them get to sleep is a proven and effective therapeutic modality.

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Response by:

Floyd R Sallee, MD
Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati