Dealing With Bedtimes When Your Kids Share a Room

Two brothers sleeping in bed

Getty Images / Andersen Ross Photography Inc

There are plenty of reasons a kid may share a bedroom with a sibling. Maybe there's limited room in the house. Perhaps parents want their kids to have a stronger bond. Childhood nostalgia may be at play: A recent poll says that up to 60% of people shared a bedroom with a brother or sister while growing up.

There can be a lot of practical benefits to having kids share a room, but there are also challenges. That includes dealing with different bedtimes as well as contrasting sleep styles. "Parents should remember that as a child ages, the expected duration of sleep decreases and the timing of sleep (when the child feels tired) becomes later,” explains Bobbi Hopkins, MD, medical director of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Sleep Center.

Figuring out bedtime with kids in the same room is tricky. But being aware of potential pitfalls and knowing how to address them can help parents devise a successful plan to make it work. In this article, we’ll look at the part sibling dynamics play when kids share a bedroom, problems you may face with the room-sharing arrangement, and solutions to help everyone get a good night’s sleep.

Understanding Sibling Dynamics

Research shows what parents already know — when siblings have conflicts, it disrupts their ability to sleep soundly in the same room. Experts advise looking at kids’ ages and personalities when you set up room-sharing arrangements.

“I recommend matching kids by age as closely as you can, allowing for compatible ‘roommates’ by placing children who are nearer in age together in a shared room space," says Lauren Gardner, PhD, ABPP, Psychology Internship Director, Administrative Director of the Autism Program at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. When siblings are close enough in age and stage, parents are often able to coordinate the schedule to synchronize bedtimes, streamlining the put-down process and potentially helping both children sleep better.

Putting a baby and a toddler in the same room can often work, especially once they are both sleeping through the night. But when you have a baby and a school-aged child, you're faced with dramatically different sleep schedules. It can be difficult to keep a baby from waking an older child in the middle of the night, and to keep an older sibling from waking up a baby during nap time or in the early evening.

Plus, siblings of different genders and ages are developing at different times and the older they get, the more they will seek their own space. "Older children want a place of their own and a place for privacy,” explains Nichole Levy, Child Sleep and Behavior Coach/Owner, Little Peach Sleep.

Potential Problems

Even if you’ve put children who are similar in age in the room together, problems can (and likely will) develop at some point. Being aware of issues can help anticipate how to handle them.

Sleep Issues

If a child has trouble either going to or staying asleep, this can affect their sibling roommate. “Children with underlying sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (snoring), sleepwalking, or insomnia may disrupt their sibling’s sleep,” Dr. Hopkins notes. Siblings can be startled when another child is fussy at bedtime or is restless during the night.

Opposites Don't Always Attract

One child likes a night light, the other needs complete darkness to sleep. One child wants a noise machine, the other commands silence before they can rest. Children with different personalities can inevitably rub each other the wrong way. When trying to get children with different preferences for what's "restful" to sleep in the same environment, those differences can be a challenge.

Nighttime Chatterbox

Some children are so excited to finally have their sibling’s full attention, that they proceed to talk continuously. Even if the other sibling says they need to get some rest, the nighttime talks may not cease. In addition to being tired and cranky, the child who's craving quiet may resent sharing a room with someone who won’t let them rest.

Co-Dependency Issues


Even if a room-sharing arrangement works out wonderfully, it can sometimes lead to children becoming dependent on their sibling to fall asleep, making other room arrangements—on vacation, at camp, after a move—tricky.

Eventually, everyone needs to learn to soothe and fall asleep on their own, says Mary Alvord, PhD, Psychologist and Director of Alvord, Baker & Associates, LLC.  "If children become dependent on someone being with them, that can be problematic when they need their independence," says Dr. Alvord.

Solutions for Sharing a Room

Getting creative and getting the children on board with your plans are great ways to help ease the challenges that sharing a room and dealing with bedtime routines can bring.

Staggering Bedtimes

A school-age child may chafe at the thought of having to go to bed in the early evening with a toddler. Allowing older children to go to bed later can give them the independence they crave. It can also allow the little one to be fast asleep by the time their older sibling goes to bed—and practice how to fall asleep independently as well.

Stick to a Routine and Let the Kids Take Part

Studies show that children with bedtime routines are better focused and more attentive. Having consistent routines at night can help alleviate issues sharing a room.

“Especially for older toddlers and children, ensure they know exactly what is coming each night to avoid stalling and struggles at bedtime,” states Levy. She says getting the kids involved in the process makes a difference. “I always recommend a bedtime routine poster that each child decorates and gets excited about. You can even take pictures of them doing the routine and paste them on the poster. Review this at night, especially if the bedtime routine becomes a tough part of the day,” she says.

Set Boundaries

Boundaries about how to approach bedtime and sibling interactions help set expectations. These boundaries can include a set time for reading a story or playing with toys before bed, a cut-off time for drinks of water, and how long a child can chat with a sibling once lights are out.

“Toddlers need structure to be successful and make the right choices. Although they may seem like they want to totally do their own thing, they actually need us to help guide them and set them up for success,” Levy notes.

Though putting plans in place doesn’t guarantee a perfect sleep routine, it’s a step in the right direction. As a caregiver, you set the stage and help drive the course of action. “Be patient and creative," Dr. Gardner says. "Let your children have a voice in the process and try to focus on the positive aspects of growth this can add to their lives."

A Word From Verywell

When children share their sleeping space, everyone needs to make adjustments to ensure bedtime goes smoothly for all. As you decide what your household room-sharing arrangements look like, keep in mind that your kids’ ages, stages of development, and individual personalities all play a role in creating daytime and nighttime harmony. By making smart roommate pairings, establishing routines, and setting boundaries around bedtime, your children will sleep better (and so will you).

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3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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