What Does Bed-Sharing Do To Your Back?

by Caroline Tung Richmond

There's a lot to consider before you start sharing a bed with your child. How can you do it safely? Will it suppress your kid's independence? And if you have existing back issues — what does bed-sharing do to your back? Whether or not you decide that bed-sharing is the right choice for your family, you deserve a good night of sleep that's blissfully back pain-free.

While sharing a bed with your child can be sweet, those tender moments can quickly turn sour as you contort your body to accommodate your kid's thrashing limbs. My own toddler likes to mimic a starfish whenever we bed-share — arms out, legs spread, and completely unaware of her feet in my face. And so it makes sense why some bed-sharing parents begin to experience back pain, due to the sleep positions they're often forced to take. For instance, the National Sleep Foundation concluded that sleeping on your stomach can cause back issues because it's hard to keep your spine in a neutral position. Similarly, if you always sleep on the same side to adjust to your child's positioning, you might be creating a muscle imbalance that can also lead to spinal problems.

If you're experiencing back pain from bed-sharing, the good news is that there are numerous treatments available. You may want to start by evaluating your mattress. Is it too old? Or too soft? A firmer mattress can alleviate back pain, according to the American Chiropractic Association, and so a visit to the mattress store might be in order.

With milder cases of back pain, you can try sleeping in different positions, maintaining a healthy diet, or increasing your activity level (dust off those gym shoes). The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons also suggested a variety of back pain treatments, too, like taking anti-inflammatory pills or making an appointment with a physical therapist. But if your back pain keeps getting worse, you may want to talk to your doctor about possible surgical options.

Parenting tends to wreak havoc on your back — from wearing your baby to picking up your toddler to crawling around your living room floor to find a beloved stuffed animal — and bed-sharing can exacerbate these issues even more. But there is hope. With the right treatment and sleep positioning, you can find a way to bed-share with your child and wake up in the morning without any pain.