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Who can I sleep with safely? (12/14/11)

December 14, 2011

Love, Strangulation and Suffocation

When you see public health advertisements placing a meat cleaver  next to a sleeping infant, it’s clear co-sleeping is no longer a simple matter. Milwaukee’s Health  Department has received has enormous flack, but officials are convinced their ads keeping infants from parental beds will save many from strangulation and suffocation.
But who can you safely and effectively sleep with? Your pets? Your spouse or partner? Is it really better to sleep alone?
On many of these issues the data are sparse and the answers complex. Here is a simple set of pros and cons you can use to make your own decisions.

Sleeping with Infants

Pros

Love
Bonding
Ease of breast feeding
Setting circadian rhythms together for the whole family
Economy
Some data that sleep comes easier to parents and infant, and infants sleep longer

Cons
Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends not sleeping with infants for up to 2 years due to increased strangulation and smothering, with 75% of deaths occurring in first 3 months; other studies highlight increased death rates in the first few months after birth
Some evidence that SIDS  increases with co-sleeping
Worse mortality if parents are smokers, greater risk with drinking and pill taking

Correctives
Put infants on their backs to prevent SIDS; keep their heads uncovered
Don’t cosleep if you smoke or drink
Set up the bed environment so that you make it impossible that the infant can get caught in the bedframe, mattress, or extraneous cords outside the bed; keep out soft items like pillows that can smother infants.

Animals
The (“http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/12/get-from-pet/” target=”_hplink”) majority of US dog and cat owners at least occasionally sleep with their pets. Many single women routinely sleep with their animals. Lots can’t imagine anything wrong with the arrangement.

Pros
Love
Bonding
Warmth – especially on cold winter nights
Resynching – to a degree – pets’ circadian rhythm with that of owners
Some evidence of lower blood pressure

Cons
Zoonoses –  infections brought by animals to humans, which include intestinal parasites, toxoplasmosis, even plague  – a real problem for pregnant or potentially pregnant women and anyone with immune difficulties
Frequent waking – animals don’t have the same circadian rhythms of humans, and don’t go to the bathroom on the same schedule; cats in particular do not respond to voiced directives

Correctives
Keep your animals really clean with frequent washings
Vet visits to rid animals of parasites
Think twice before you let your dog lick your face

Spouse, Partner, or Loved One

Pros
Love
Bonding
Intimacy – and intimate conversations
Sex
Reset of circadian rhythms – to a point

Cons
Snoring – a leading cause of marital discord and surprisingly common
Infections
Allergies
Frequent movement causing awakenings – over half of people over 65 kick their legs, and people often move when getting into different sleep stages -which they can do dozens of times a night
Evidence that people (http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/15/do-you-sleep-with-your-spouse/” target=”_hplink) sleep better apart than alone – generally because of what’s noted above
Sexual activity with your partner may include meeting microorganisms of all their previous partners

Correctives
Snoring can be the harbinger of sleep apnea, which is generally treatable – by weight loss, CPAP machines, or dental devices
Earplugs and white noise machines
Frequent washing

Social Connection

Two points should be made: First, that co-sleeping is probably as old as humanity, and is culturally, socially, and psychologically prized. Plus social support is a large factor in keeping people healthy and alive, as research has shown repeatedly since Berkman and Syme’s famous 1979 study demonstrating its remarkable health benefits.
Second, lots is still not known about co-sleeping. Research on sleep with animals certainly seems appropriate, as data is meager and the practice extremely widespread.
What does make sense is for families to discuss the matter – candidly and hopefully with humor. How you spend a third of your life is significant in many ways – for pleasure, health and survival.
Rest, sleep, Sarasota Sleep Doctor, well-being, regeneration, longevity, body clocks, insomnia, sleep disorders, the rest doctor, matthew edlund, the power of rest, the body clock, psychology today, huffington post, redbook, longboat key news

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