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A study’s findings revolve around the brain’s consolidation of emotional memories into long-term memory, which happens during sleep. (Thinkstock)
A study’s findings revolve around the brain’s consolidation of emotional memories into long-term memory, which happens during sleep. (Thinkstock)

When bedtime turns into musical beds Add to ...

Peter Routledge, a Toronto bond-rater who grew up in Montreal and Bellevue, Wash., slept with his parents until he was 10. "It was more of an open-door policy. They'd lie with my brother and me, and fall asleep."

Now, Mr. Routledge and his wife, Diane, sleep with their 22-month-old son, Aidan, who occupies the centre of their king-sized bed. "It's a pain when he goes horizontal -- you get foot-in-face," says Mr. Routledge, 38.

Mrs. Routledge, 44, says that, at first, their baby slept alone. But then they found everyone slept better when together.

"We waited a few months. We didn't want to smother him," Mr. Routledge says.

Mrs. Routledge, a stay-at-home mom, says: "It just evolved. But now he sleeps with us all the time."

Indeed, many families start co-sleeping out of sheer desperation. "We do the whole musical-bed thing," says Renée Torrington, whose three daughters, 3, 6 and 8, crawl into bed with her several times a week. "It puts them at peace," says Mrs. Torrington, a former actress who sells outdoor-seasonal items on The Shopping Channel.

When the children are sick, she'll go into their beds. When she's outnumbered, her husband, Sean Torrington, a firefighter in Markham, Ont., helps out. "He'll go into one room and I'll go into the other."

Desperation is how Ira Basen and Lynn Mendelson started. "I'm embarrassed because we didn't really do it out of love and nearness, but really lazy parenting," says Ms. Mendelson, 53, a caterer. "I didn't like kids crying."

They let their first child, then their second, their third, and finally their fourth child into their double bed in their Toronto home. "I believe I got crowded out with the second one," says Mr. Basen, 55, a CBC producer and co-author of The Book of Lists.

When the third child came along, the first two children decided that the family bed was too crowded. "They basically walked out, holding each other's hands and went downstairs. They came back and visited us," Ms. Mendelson says.

She says she suffered transient nerve damage in one arm because her third child had a big head and always slept in the crook of her right arm.

"We used to call the crib 'the prop.' We kept it, even though we moved three times and we never used it," she adds.

Meanwhile, Mr. Basen moved downstairs with the first two girls. The third child was booted out by the fourth child. "That's when I moved back in," Mr. Basen says, adding that by then he and his wife had acquired a queen-sized bed.

Mr. Basen calls their co-sleeping arrangements "the great untold secret.

"I can't believe I'm telling you this," he says. "You get hung up on it. It seems like it shouldn't be right. But to me, it's all about the sleep. My philosophy is everybody needed to get a good night's sleep."

Their children are now 13, 16, 18 and 19. They aren't scarred, but perhaps their parents are. "I still hear them," Ms. Mendelson says. "And one of my kids lives in Vancouver."

Jan Wong is a feature writer at The Globe and Mail.

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