Bed-sharing between parents and children comes with both benefits and risks. Now a new study as published in the journal European Respiratory Journal reveals a link between toddlers who share a bed with a parent and an increased risk of developing asthma later in childhood.
For the study, researchers at Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands used two questionnaires, the first to collect information on asthma symptoms for the first six years of life and the second on sleeping patterns at age 2 months and age 24 months. A total of 6,160 mothers completed the questionnaires.
According to the study, children who shared a bed with a parent during infancy did not have a higher risk of asthma or wheezing between birth and age 6. The researchers, however, did find an association between bed-sharing at age 2 and an increased risk of wheezing between the ages 3 and 6 and an increased risk of an asthma diagnosis at age 6.
But the researchers caution that the link between bed-sharing and asthma is not causal. One explanation for the link could be that parents who notice early asthma symptoms in their toddlers may be more likely to share a bed with their children.
Explains first author Dr. Maartje Luijk:
“There could be a number of factors at play here. For example, bed-sharing families might be more likely to report wheezing because they are more attentive or aware of their children’s breathing. Alternatively, families might perceive wheezing as problematic and as something that could lead to sleep problems, which might in turn elicit bed-sharing to better monitor these problems. More research is needed to identify the factors that may impact on the development of asthma through bed-sharing.”
Adds Associate Editor of the European Respiratory Journal Dr. Claudia Kuehni in a linked comment:
“The study stands out from many others, in that it does not content itself with showing that putative risk factors and health outcome are associated (which means only that they occur more often together than would be expected by chance). Rather, the authors investigate temporal relationships to find out if the risk factor, here bed-sharing, might affect the health outcome, in our example asthma. Such investigations are only possible when studies measure risk factors and health outcomes at different time points, and results are analysed with appropriate techniques. Although such methods have been known for many years, they remain underused.”
The researchers do not conclude that bed-sharing with a toddler increases the risk of asthma, only that toddlerhood bed-sharing and childhood asthma appear to be linked:
“The current study shows that there is an association between toddlers who share a bed with their parents at the age of two years and wheezing and asthma in later childhood.
“We postulated that the finding may be explained by parents taking the decision to share a bed with their toddler to monitor their asthma symptoms. However our results found no associations between pre-existing asthma symptoms in the first two years of life and bed-sharing at the age of 2 years.”
Additional research is needed to reveal the factors that affect the development of asthma through bed-sharing.
Higher rate of asthma seen in toddlers who share a bed with their parents: http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=148064&CultureCode=en
Is parent-child bed-sharing a risk for wheezing and asthma in early childhood: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/286847.php
Mother Bed-sharing with Children: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Family_Love.jpg