should children sleep alone?

I read an interesting opinion piece in the LA Times titled Why Do We Make Children Sleep Alone. In case you don’t get a chance to read it, the basic premise is this:

“For all the tenacity with which we cling to the ideal of solitary childhood sleep, it’s a historical anomaly. This system of sleeping — adults in one room, each child walled off in another — was common practice exactly nowhere before the late 19th century, when it took hold in Europe and North America. ” And, “Our sleep, in other words, has a large carbon footprint. Far from being a backward practice, co-sleeping, or at least sleeping in close proximity, may be a more enlightened, sustainable use of space and natural resources.”

The article struck me, because though I’ve had many conversations over the years about co-sleeping — how long we preferred to keep babies in the same room/same bed, and how we handle siblings sharing a room — I’ve never thought about the history of sleep or considered that there are modern cultures where still today, family members all sleep in one room.

should children sleep alone?should children sleep alone?

I’ll be honest, it’s hard for me to even imagine beyond baby and toddlerhood. I can picture it working in a pre-electricity time, when people of all ages went to bed with the sun. But these days, it seems like adults rarely go to sleep at the same time as their children — so even if they sleep in the same room, falling asleep together at the same time seems unlikely.

What about you? Have you ever thought about the history of sleep, or considered that our tradition of separate bedrooms is a historical anomaly? And what’s your take on our contemporary version of co-sleeping? Do your babies (or did your babies) share a bed with you for a few months? A few years? Or if not a bed, do they (or did they) sleep in your room?

P.S. — When I shared photos of our girls’ bedroom with four beds in row, it stressed some readers out as they worried about privacy for our older kids.