Co-sleeping affects your life in a lot of ways — it can make bedtime less stressful, it can give you extra bonding time with your little one, and it can make you wish you had sprung for a king-sized mattress. But what co-sleeping does to your brain is worth noting, too, just so you can figure out if your tiny bed mate is the one causing you to forget everything or if that's a whole different issue.
Although parenting in general seems to turn your brain into mush, co-sleeping has a different kind of effect on your brain. As a parent, you're already pretty sensitive to your baby's needs, but according to the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame, your brain becomes a sort of home-base for your baby's physiological needs. Basically, co-sleeping makes you more aware of what your baby needs as they sleep and both you and your baby can detect each other's sensory signals while you're sleeping, enabling you to jump into action if your baby has some kind of issue, like difficulty breathing.
Pretty insane, right? But that's not all that happens to your brain. According to Kelly Mom, most co-sleeping parents get more sleep than if their child slept in another room. Being well rested is nice enough, but the Anxiety and Depression Association of America noted that a lack of sleep can cause mood disorders and anxiety, so co-sleeping could help ward those off as you clock in those extra moments of rest.
Co-sleeping is a personal choice — it's not right for every family. But for those who find it works for their situation, you may get more than you bargained for in terms of brain power. With less hassle at bedtime, less midnight wake-up calls, and more sleep, your stress levels will also decrease. According to Psychology Today, too much stress can have a lot of negative affects on your brain, including keeping your brain in a constant fight-or-flight feeling, which isn't good for anyone. (And is also super exhausted.)
Basically? There's going to be a lot of moments in parenting that affect your brain, so snatch up the good benefits when you can. If co-sleeping works for you and your family, reap all of the nice parts and appreciate a well-rested brain that can sense your baby's every need.