Older Babies Sleep Better In Separate Rooms

Babies who slept in separate rooms slept longer, got to sleep quicker, and were more likely to have a bedtime routine than those who slept in the same bed or room as their parents, a new study reports. Parents were also less likely to perceive bedtime as difficult.

The international survey looking at sleeping locations and outcomes involved parents of more than 10,000 infants aged 6 to 12 months who completed an app-based questionnaire.

But researchers can’t say for certain that separate rooms are better for all infants. The study didn’t look at the effect of babies sharing a room with a sibling, for example.

And a range of external factors, such as home environment, breastfeeding, and interaction with family and other caregivers, might also affect babies’ sleep.

Who Did The Study

The study was carried out by researchers from Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and Johnson and Johnson Consumer, all in the US.

It was funded by Johnson & Johnson, a multinational medical devices, pharmaceutical and consumer packaged goods manufacturing company, who also developed the mobile app used in this research.

This cross-sectional study used a questionnaire on an app to examine babies’ sleep patterns, behaviors and sleep problems in both a US and international sample of infants.

The researchers aimed to see if sleeping arrangements (where the infant slept) affected these sleep-related outcomes.

This type of research can identify patterns and associations between sleep location and sleep outcomes at a specific snapshot in time, but can’t show trends over time or look at longer term outcomes.

It also can’t determine cause and effect – in other words, that where a baby sleeps directly causes certain sleep outcomes. A range of other factors could also influence this.

Also, it’s possible that parents of babies with underlying sleep problems unrelated to where they sleep just prefer to put them in the same bedroom because it’s easier for them if their child wakes in the night.

Who Was Studied And How

The research involved 6,236 infants and their parents from the US, and 3,798 participants from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand, who all had infants aged between 6 and 12 months. It looked at the association between sleep location and sleep outcomes.

Participants completed a smartphone app-based expanded version of the Brief Infant Sleep Questionnaire (BISQ). They also reported demographic information. The app, Johnson’s Bedtime Baby Sleep, was free and publicly available.

The questionnaire recorded expected developmental changes in infants and the potential influence of environmental factors.

It asked questions on:

  • sleep location in relation to parents: room-share, bed-share or separate
  • sleeping (sharing with siblings was excluded)
  • infant daytime and night-time sleep patterns
  • sleep-related behaviors, such as how long it takes to fall asleep or how many times an infant wakes during the night

The app also included:

  • an electronic sleep diary
  • information on bedtime routines
  • lullabies
  • an online intervention – the intervention uses sleep data gathered by the app and then provides customised advice based on the data provided

Basic Results

The researchers found 37.2% infants aged 6 to 12 months from the US, and 48.4% in the international sample, slept in a separate room from their parents.

US infants sleeping in a separate room:

  • had significantly earlier bedtimes (20:08pm) than those room-sharing or bed-sharing (20:43pm and 20:52pm, respectively) – they also took less time to get to sleep (32.04 minutes versus 45.67 and 42.31, respectively)
  • woke up less in the night (2.00) than room-sharers (2.35) or bed-sharers (2.61), had a greater longest stretch of sleep (6.75 hours versus 5.88 and 5.33), and had a longer night-time sleep (9.57 hours versus 8.81 and 8.89)
  • were more likely to be reported as having a consistent bedtime routine (72.8% versus 56.0% room-share versus 51.5% bed-share) and more likely to fall asleep independently (35.5% versus 30.3% versus 17.4%)
  • resulted in fewer parents perceiving bedtime to be difficult (27.1% versus 37.1% room-share versus 42.3% bed-share) or their child having problems falling asleep (33.1% versus 43.6 room-share versus 48.1% bed-share)

Similar results were found for the international sample (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand).

Conclusions

The researchers concluded:

“These results indicate that infants aged 6 to 12 months who sleep in a separate room have better parent-reported sleep outcomes in terms of increased sleep duration and sleep consolidation, as well as better sleep health practices (i.e. conforming with commonly recommended sleep behaviours) and parent perception of infant sleep.”

This study seems to show that parents of infants aged 6 to 12 months who sleep in a separate room report better infant sleep outcomes, such as sleep times and sleep duration, than parents who keep their infant in the same room or bed.

These findings are similar to a study published June 2017, which found “independent sleepers” slept for longer aged nine months than room-sharers.

Mindell JA, Leichman ES, Walters RM
Sleep Location and Parent-Perceived Sleep Outcomes in Older Infants
Sleep Medicine https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2017.08.003

Image: Bill McConkey, Wellcome Images