You wake up from a sound sleep because you feel like something’s in the bedroom that shouldn’t be. As you hop out of bed to investigate, your foot hits something warm... and that warm thing yelps. You scream back in horror before realizing it’s your toddler sleeping on the floor like a total creep. Or maybe you go to peek in on your precious cherub and find them not in their bed, but snuggled up with a stuffed animal on the floor by the toy box. Dude, what gives?
My husband and I have basically decided to wait until our son is ready to go to college to give him his own big boy bed. The thought of him having free will during bedtime — of all times — is terrifying. I'm also worried he will be like I was when I was little, and will sleep outside of our bedroom door on the floor with a blanket if we don’t let him come in the bed. I myself started this habit once I transitioned to a “big-kid” bed. I’m not sure why I liked to sleep on the floor, and experts say that every child is different, so there could be multiple reasons that you may find your own kid on the floor.
Maureen Healy, child therapist and author of The Emotionally Healthy Child, tells Romper it could be a sensory thing or mental. “It may be more comfortable than their crib, or something about the floor is comforting to their physical body,” she says. Or, it could be a “power play” and "they just want to feel in charge." And we all know how toddlers love being the one in charge.
“Toddlers crave independence, and I wonder if picking their own spot in the room to sleep appeals to their desire to strike out on their own,” says Katie Lear, a licensed clinical mental health counselor who works with parents and kids.
“It's also possible that it's a self-soothing behavior if your child is waking up in the middle of the night — maybe they feel calmer if they can create a secure place for themselves," Lear says. Echoing Healy's comments about the sensory aspect, she also notes that they may even prefer the texture of the carpet to their own bed, or “there are more interesting things to see at eye-level when they're on the floor.”
While it is annoying, is there anything you should really be worried about when your child loves to sleep on the floor? Not so much. Lear says, “As long as a child is in a safe room and getting out of the bed isn't disrupting anyone's sleep, I can't imagine that sleeping on the floor by choice would cause any psychological harm to a child.” She adds that if you can put their mattress and blanket on the floor for a while to give them some added comfort, that would be great. “I suspect that for most children, this is a developmental phase and they will return to their ‘big-kid bed’ when they are ready — maybe when a sibling or friend gets a new bed.”
“Most likely, there’s no tremendous ‘damage’ done," Healy says. "But I have seen different young children wanting to sleep on the floor with a mattress and sleeping bag temporarily due to attachment issues." When it comes to the littlest members of your family though, Healy says toddlers are a totally different story and you'll want to make sure they have the right crib or appropriate bedding to sleep safely. "My suggestion is to focus on problem-solving since this is usually a phase.”
Katie Lear, clinical mental health counselor