Emily Oster

2 min Read Emily Oster

Emily Oster

Should I Make My Kids Share a Room?

Q&A on the benefits of room sharing

Emily Oster

2 min Read

I have two kids, a 3-year-old boy and a 16-month-old girl. They are in separate rooms right now, and it would be fine if they stayed that way. However, I shared rooms with my sister growing up some of the time, and while I hated it when we were older, I think I liked it when we were younger. I’ve heard people say there are statistical benefits to siblings sharing rooms. Is this true? Does it also make sleep for the kids better or worse?

—Wondering How Much Sharing is Too Much

There is very little data on this question! There is at least some data on room sharing with parents, especially in younger infancy. But this question of room sharing with siblings as kids are older appears to be quite understudied.

Even on the most basic question of sleep, the data is limited. One paper from 2019 suggested that room sharing was correlated with taking longer to fall asleep, but in these data the authors conflate room sharing with a grown-up to room sharing with a sibling. Part of what makes answering this hard, as you might imagine, is that room sharing is closely correlated with other family features. Most families who have an option to put their children in different rooms do so, meaning that house size (which is reflective of income, location, etc.) is a big determinant. But, of course, these other family differences may also play a role in sleep.

On the broader topic of, say, whether sibling room sharing generates closeness or gives some other benefits, there is really nothing. The occasional dissertation with a few interviews, but nothing that would point systematically to say it is better or worse for kids.

I read this all as saying there is no strong data-based reason to do one thing or the other. Long-term, you will almost certainly want them in separate rooms, which may argue for keeping the status quo. Moving beds is hard.

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SLEEP DATA 💤 PART 2: Let’s talk about naps. Comment “Link” for an article on what we learned about daytime sleep!

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Note: Survey data came from the ParentData audience and users of the Nanit sleep monitor system. Both audiences skew higher-education and higher-income than the average, and mostly have younger children. The final sample is 14,919 children. For more insights on our respondents, read the full article.

SLEEP DATA 💤 PART 2: Let’s talk about naps. Comment “Link” for an article on what we learned about daytime sleep!

The first three months of life are a chaotic combination of irregular napping, many naps, and a few brave or lucky souls who appear to have already arrived at a two-to-three nap schedule. Over the next few months, the naps consolidate to three and then to two. By the 10-to-12-month period, a very large share of kids are napping a consistent two naps per day. Over the period between 12 and 18 months, this shifts toward one nap. And then sometime in the range of 3 to 5 years, naps are dropped. What I think is perhaps most useful about this graph is it gives a lot of color to the average napping ages that we often hear.

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