Top tips to make sibling room sharing work

Is room sharing on the cards for your kids? Even if they’re not used to it, the good news is your kids can happily sleep in the same space. We share five tips for success. By Tammy Jacks

Whether you have twins, or a toddler and a new baby on the way, there comes a time when room sharing might be necessary for your family. In fact, there are many reasons why the sleeping arrangements in your home need to change, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s sleep has to suffer.

Mom of four, sleep coach and neonatal nurse Cara Dumaplin, (who also runs a successful sleep coaching business) believes it’s possible and, in many cases, beneficial for siblings to share a room. If you’re nervous about the transition, follow Cara’s advice here:

ALSO SEE: Coping with a toddler and a new baby 

Create a good sleep environment

  • Whether you have two cots or a bed and a cot in the room, arrange the furniture so they’re on opposite sides of the room. This way, you lessen the chance of one child waking the other.
  • Prep the room before sleep time. Make bottles (if you’re not breastfeeding), and put out nappies and wipes if you have to change your little one in the night.
  • Play some soft music, nature sounds or white noise (such as a fan) in the room to help them fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • Ensure your children’s room is dark enough (for naps and at night). The darkness will encourage their bodies to produce enough melatonin – the hormone that regulates sleep/wake cycles. You can achieve this by using black-out curtains or blinds.
  • If possible, regulate the temperature in the bedroom so it’s optimal for sleep. Experts believe this is between 18 – 22ºC.

ALSO SEE: Toddler sleep – moving from a cot to a big bed

Don’t be overly cautious

If you’d like your kids to share a room, keep in mind that children are more resilient than you think. Cara says 80% of kids between the ages of 2 and 13 years could sleep through the ear-piercing sound of a fire alarm!

Candice Tehini, mom of twin boys (2), has experienced this first-hand, “I never separate my boys – even if the one is sick, moaning or niggly,” she says. “They get used to each other’s noises, and I believe they take comfort in knowing they’re not sleeping alone. I’ve had nights where one of my boys is screaming at the top of his lungs while I’m changing his nappy, singing to him or giving him a bottle and his brother doesn’t even stir in his sleep.”

The take-home message here is not to worry too much about your children waking each other up. They will get used to each other’s noises.

Stick to the same bedtime routine, but don’t expect the same sleep time

“Bedtime routines are an important part of healthy sleep. They cue our children’s brains that sleep is coming and help them physically relax prior to falling asleep,” explains Cara. However, you might have to adjust the routine slightly if your older child is sharing a room with his baby sister, for instance.

“This could be as simple as doing part of the bedtime routine out in the living room for your older child,” says Cara. “For example, your baby’s bedtime routine could take place in the bedroom, but the older sibling has a bedtime routine in the living room (with lights dimmed and the TV off). Then, as you’re doing your bedtime routine with your older child, help him to anticipate what it will be like to enter a darkened nursery and the need to be quiet,” she adds.

Mom of three Danielle Strehler, who has twin boys (2) and an older son (4) says, “From the beginning, we’ve ensured that our boys stick to the same bedtime routine. After dinner and bath time, I read them all a story on my bed and let them drink milk or tea together and wind down. On most occasions they fall asleep at different times but having them all fall asleep in the same place has meant that my older son never feels neglected. After they fall asleep, my husband and I transfer them to their own beds, and they sleep well most nights.”

Candice also follows a similar bedtime routine with her boys, but is relaxed about when they fall asleep. “Just because my boys are twins, doesn’t mean they fall asleep at the same time for naps or at night. I just try to find a happy medium and work at getting both of them to the point where they are tired enough to fall asleep on their own. This might mean having to push one to stay awake a little longer or putting the other down a little earlier than he’d like,” she explains.

“But in my opinion, it’s amazing to see how babies thrive on routine, and how you can get two very different sleepers on the same routine. All it takes is a little patience and perseverance,” she adds.

ALSO SEE: How to coordinate sibling sleep schedules

Always have a backup plan in place

Little ones can be unpredictable, especially when it comes to sleep regressions, a change in routine (such as holidays), teething or illness. This makes it necessary to have a backup plan in place should the night not go according to plan. “Even if you never need to use your backup plan, just having that option will ease your anxiety,” says Cara. You could have a mattress next to your bed or keep a set of linen (including pillows and blankets) handy if you have to set up a sleep space in the lounge.

Use separate nap spaces

As Cara explains, night-time sleep is different to day naps when there are lots more distractions to keep your little ones awake. Also, our bodies don’t produce as much melatonin during the day, so naps are generally lighter than nigh- time sleep.

If, however, you have twins who sleep well together, there’s no need to have separate nap spaces. Babies and older siblings might benefit from separate sleep spaces in the day. Cara’s advice is to move your baby out of the room, rather than your toddler – as they’re generally more sensitive to changes in their sleep environment.

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