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Family Bed – What is the Family Bed and is it for You?

Many families enjoy sleeping together in a large bed. Are you curious about the concept of a family bed, where parents, children and even the family pets can all share the same sleep space? Before you try it, make sure to first do your research, talk about it as a family, and find out what size bed can actually accommodate everyone in your family comfortably.

family of four in bed

4 Reasons You Should Embrace the Family Bed

  1. Better Sleep for Everyone
  2. Family Intimacy
  3. Health Benefits for Infants
  4. Consistent with Traditional Human Behavior

Family bed sharing may not be for everyone, but for those who wish to pursue this sleep style, it’s important to choose a mattress size that helps everyone get a great night’s sleep.

What is a Family Bed?

In general terms, a family bed is any bed in which a family — of any size — shares a sleeping space. More specifically, family beds can refer to a series of super-sized mattresses that are fairly new in the mattress industry. These jumbo family beds are designed to accommodate entire families. Some “family-sized” mattresses may measure 144 inches in wide, which is almost double the width of a traditional king-size bed.

What is an Alaskan King Bed?

While the standard queen size mattress has long reigned as the most popular mattress, and the king-size bed has been crowned best mattress for couples, the Alaskan king bed has burst onto the mattress scene with even more generous dimensions. While traditional king size bed dimensions measure 80 by 76 inches, the oversized Alaskan king measures roughly 108 inches square, which makes it a popular option for those who want to share a giant bed with the whole family.

If you’re interested in an Alaskan king bed, chances are you won’t find one in stores. They generally are custom made for consumers who specifically request them.

How to Create a Family Bed With Purple

If you don’t want to order a customized family size bed, you can also recreate the family bed experience by combining other bed sizes — all available from Purple. You could combine two standard size king mattresses for a bed that’s 152 inches by 80 inches. This typically works well for families with smaller children and gives everyone plenty of room to get a good night’s sleep.

You can also combine two California king size mattresses, for a bed that measures 144 inches by 84 inches. This is an especially good choice if you’re dealing with very tall sleepers. Hint: check out Pinterest for some great ideas on how to make this work and look great. Just make sure to carefully measure your bedroom space to make sure you can fit the mattress size dimensions of the oversize family bed within your available room.

4 Reasons You Should Embrace the Family Bed

Family in Bed with pet

Let’s take a closer look at some of the reasons you might want to pursue a co-sleeping space for your family. For those who decide that family sleep sharing is for them, many reasons factor into the decision, including the following:

1. Better Sleep for Everyone

It’s not a huge leap to imagine that everyone sleeps better when they don’t have to get up and down several times throughout the night, go to a different room, take care of infant needs, get the baby back to sleep and then come back to the adult bed. In this kind of cycle, everyone is wide awake and a bit anxious by the time all duties are complete, and it can be hard to go back to sleep.

In a family bed, an infant can drowsily nighttime nurse without fully waking, then baby and mom can quickly settle back into deep, restorative sleep. The close proximity of family bed sharing makes nighttime feedings and other infant care less disruptive for everyone involved and lets everyone get back to sleep more quickly.

Sleep sharing can also promote a healthy attitude toward sleep. With a family bed, bedtime becomes a relaxing and pleasant experience that babies and young children look forward to, instead of turning into a battle of wills when it’s time to get ready for bed. Infants naturally wake several times during the night and can have considerable trouble going back to sleep — but if they’re snuggled up next to Mom and Dad, the message is that sleep is a safe place. It can become much easier for a baby or toddler to relax and fall back asleep fairly quickly.

For older children, a family bed can help with anxiety issues. The security of co-sleeping in the same bed with mom and dad can go a long way toward calming the natural fears and stress that come with learning more about the world and its dangers.

2. Family Intimacy

Co-sleeping can increase bonding, especially between mothers and babies. The physical proximity and the ability to breastfeed easily create a sense of comfort for the infant and promote better sleep for the mother. Sleeping in close proximity allows the husband to be nearby to help with child or infant needs during the night and also to establish a close physical bond. The togetherness that comes with a family bed helps reinforce the family bond after a busy day.

3. Health Benefits for Infants

Some doulas and lactation consultants believe that co-sleeping with an infant can help regulate the baby’s breathing and even body temperature. Sleeping in a family bed can offer some health benefits to the baby, especially if you’re dealing with an infant who was premature or is dealing with a particular health issue. Sleeping in a family bed can also help infants fall asleep faster, which, leads to better sleep for everyone — a key factor for good health.

One longtime, traditional “treatment” for an infant failing gain weight quickly has been to hold the baby close to the mother’s skin, and in fact, to sleep with the infant snuggled against the sleeping mom, skin to skin, nursing throughout the night. Today, more infant sleep studies are underway at various universities around the world, and they are starting to yield results that support the health benefits of sleep sharing for infants and other family members.

4. Consistent with Traditional Human Behavior

Bed sharing, or co-sleeping, isn’t a modern invention. In fact, most of our ancestors slept in family beds for centuries, and children only started sleeping in their own rooms within the last hundred years or so in most industrialized countries. In some traditional cultures, the practice of bed sharing has never really stopped.

Co-Sleeping with Infants: Is It Safe?

Two infants

Co-sleeping has emerged as a fairly controversial parenting issue, and this is ultimately a question you really have to answer for yourself and with your doctor. For years, the American Academy of Pediatrics counseled against co-sleeping with an infant under any conditions — until 2016, when it first acknowledged co-sleeping as a regular occurrence for some families. The AAP still recommends that an infant sleep by herself in a crib that has only a fitted sheet — this means no pillows, blankets, stuffed animals or other lumpy surfaces and materials that can in any way create a dangerous environment for an infant. Instead of sleeping in the same bed, the AAP recommends sleeping in the same room for up to one year with an infant.

However, some researchers, including those at the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at Notre Dame, acknowledge that co-sleeping can have benefits for both babies and their parents — only if done carefully and with safety as a paramount concern. It’s much less of a burden on a breastfeeding mother, plus both parents are near to the infant in order to meet his/her needs throughout the night, which can mean better sleep for everyone.

There’s also something to be said for the intimacy of co-sleeping, which keeps parents and infants physically close and tightly bonded. Some birth doulas and lactation consultants actively encourage co-sleeping — posing that co-sleeping can help an infant regulate both breathing and body temperature, citing historical precedence of co-sleeping throughout much of human history. In fact, in many cultures, families have shared family beds for centuries — and continue to do so.

There is often a fear that co-sleeping is related to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and the research there is conflicting. One 1992 study out of New Zealand largely shaped opinions on sleep sharing and the risk of SIDS, indicating that sleep sharing led to a higher incidence of SIDS. However, the study was found to include parents engaging in dangerous behaviors, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and going to bed intoxicated. When this data was removed from the study, there was no clear correlation between shared sleeping and a higher incidence of SIDS.

In fact, SIDS rates are lower within cultures that routinely sleep share, such as Japan. And some studies, such as some from the University of California, even indicate that sleeping next to the mother provides babies with a natural breathing regulator that can prevent the long pauses in breathing that may contribute to SIDS.

If you do decide that sharing a family bed is a good decision for your family, here are some guidelines to keep in mind for sleeping together as safely as possible:

  • Make sure the baby sleeps on his or her back.
  • Place baby between mom and the wall or between mom and a special guardrail designed for co-sleeping — available at most baby stores.
  • Never sleep with an infant if you’ve been drinking or if you’ve taken medication that might prevent you from being sensitive to the infant’s needs.
  • Keep the infant well away from pillows and bulky comforters or duvet covers.
  • Don’t smoke anywhere near the bed or baby.
  • Don’t wear any kind of jewelry or clothing that has a long tie — longer than seven inches. These can get wrapped around a baby’s neck more easily than you might think.
  • Make sure to give everyone the sleeping space they need by choosing the biggest possible size bed that can work in your bedroom space.

The Family Bed

Ultimately, no single sleeping solution works for every family all the time. Before deciding to share a family bed, make sure everyone is on the same page. Try to gauge interest and periodically ask family members how the arrangement is working for everyone. If it gets to a point where it isn’t offering benefits for the full family, it may be time to discuss a different sleeping arrangement.

If sharing a giant bed ends up being right for your family, you have several options for choosing a family size bed that gives everyone a good night’s sleep. The knowledgeable customer service team at Purple stands ready to help you design the family bed of your dreams.

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