Sleep deprivation – top tips for parents!
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Mandy Gurney
Former Director of the Sleep Clinic at the NHS St Charles hospital in London and Director of Millpond Sleep clinic. She also works as an NHS Sleep educator to health professionals across the UK.
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Baby Sleeping


Babies & toddlers have been sleeping safely, tucked up close to their parents in the same bed (or "co-sleeping"), for thousands of years, all over the world. Co-sleeping can also help babies and mums to establish breastfeeding as mums who breastfeed are more likely to keep breastfeeding. Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of SIDS to babies. That said, there are some risks you need to avoid in order to make co-sleeping safe.
Video Tutorial
In Short

Don’t co-sleep with your baby if you or your partner:

Are very tired or have drunk alcohol.


Have taken any drugs – prescription or otherwise – that make you sleepy.

Are on a sofa or chair.

Don’t co-sleep if your baby:

Has a fever or is ill.

Had a low birth weight (less than 2.5kg or 5.5 lbs).

Was born prematurely (before 37 weeks).

Check further guidelines below for more on safe co-sleeping.

When is co-sleeping NOT safe?

The Department of Health advises that bed-sharing should always be avoided if one or both parents:

  • Is excessively tired.
  • Has consumed alcohol.
  • Is a smoker.
  • Has taken any drugs, prescription or otherwise, that make you sleepy.

The risks of co-sleeping are also increased if your baby:

  • Has a fever or any signs of illness.
  • Had a low birth weight (less than 2.5kg or 5.5lb).
  • Was born prematurely (37 weeks or less).
Safety tips when co-sleeping with your baby

If you do decide to co-sleep, you need to:

  • Wait until your baby is over six months old. Prior to that, they’re safest in a cot or a safety approved bed space right up next to your bed. This still allows you to co-sleep but your baby is in their own safe bed space. (It is important to check attached cot beds are safety approved and not old ones that have been recalled.)
  • Keep your baby cool by using sheets and blankets rather than a duvet, otherwise, overheating can increase the chances of Sudden Infant Death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Always put your baby to sleep on her back rather than her front or side.
  • Never leave your baby alone in the bed – pop them in a moses basket or cot if you need to leave the room.
  • Ensure the mattress is nice and firm.
  • Make sure your baby can’t fall out of your bed or their bed space. Make sure you only use safety approved cots that attach to the side of the bed and don’t use a second-hand cot that may no longer attach properly (if it is e.g., your first baby’s attached cot and you have a new mattress and it is still safety approved and fully working that is okay.)
  • Don’t use a pillow because of the risk of suffocation. Babies don’t need a pillow until they are a year old.
  • Don’t let your baby and toddler sleep next to each other. Toddlers don’t understand how vulnerable little babies are.
  • Never risk falling asleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair.
  • Ideally, have a nice big bed so there’s room for everyone.

References and further reading

Teach Your Child To Sleep, Millpond / Hamlyn, Revised 2016.

Sleep Faring, Jim Horne / Oxford, 2006.


Take Charge of Your Child’s Sleep, Judy Owens and Jodi Mindell / Marlowe and Co, 2005.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Children, Dr Marc Weissbluth / Vermilion, 2010.

Sleeping Better, A Guide to Improving Sleep for Children with Special Needs V Mark Durand / Brookes Revised Edition 2014.

Outcomes at six years of age for children with infant sleep problems:

Longitudinal community-based study Anna M.H. Price, Melissa Wake, Harriet Hiscock et al, Sleep Medicine 13 (2012) 991–998

Short Nighttime Sleep Duration and Hyperactivity Trajectories in Early Childhood,Tourchette et al. Pediatrics. 2009.

Sleep and Depression in Postpartum Women: A Population-Based Study; Dorheim SK et al, Sleep 2009; 32(7): 847-855.

Fragmented maternal sleep is more strongly correlated with depressive symptoms than infant temperament at three months postpartum. Goyal D, Gay C, Lee K, authors Arch Women’s Ment Health. 2009;12:229–37.

Sleep problems in young infants and maternal mental and physical health, Jordana K Bayer, Harriet Hiscock, Anne Hampton and Melissa Wake, Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, vol 43, issue 1-2, January/February 2007.

Longitudinal analysis of sleep in relation to BMI and body fat in children: the FLAME study. BMJ 2011

Short sleep duration is associated with increased markers in European adolescents

International journal of Obesity (2011) 35, 1308-1317 M Garaulet et al.

Sleep and the epidemic of obesity in children and adults; E Van Cauter & K Knutson, 2008.

The use of MElatonin in children with Neurodevelopmental Disorders and impaired Sleep: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel study (MENDS),Re Appleton, AP Jones, C Gamble, PR Williamson, L Wiggs, P Montgomery, A Sutcliffe, C Barker and P Gringras. Health Technology Assessment 2012; Vol. 16: No. 40 DOI: 10.3310/hta16400

Kids’ behavior impacted by lack of sleep, Jase Donaldson, Insight Journal, Feb 13 2006.

What affects the age of first sleeping through the night? S M Adams, D R Jones, A Esmail and E A Mitchell, Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, vol 40, issue 3, March 2004.

Behavioral Treatment of Bedtime Problems and Night Wakings in Infants and Young Children; An American Academy of Sleep Medicine Review, Jodi A. Mindell, et al SLEEP, Vol. 29, No. 10, 2006

References are reviewed on a regular basis and are updated when applicable.

Sleep Training NHS staff since 2007
If you or your colleagues want to know more about children’s sleep and how you can help the families you are working with, Millpond Sleep Clinic run one-day Sleep Workshops aimed at health care professionals.
These highly engaging sessions are based on proven research and years of experience and are suitable for all staff working directly with the families of babies through to school aged children.
The workshop is fully certified and approved by The CPD Certification Service.
If you would like to find out more about the sleep workshops please contact Millpond direct on:
Tel: 020 8444 0040

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This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Essential Parent has used all reasonable care in compiling the information from leading experts and institutions but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details click here.