Couples Sleep Together Because We Are Poor And Scared of Satan

Illustration for article titled Couples Sleep Together Because We Are Poor And Scared of Satan

Like sex, the history of cosleeping is fraught with suspicion and fear and irrationality. And a heaping spoonful of Satan.

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On The Atlantic, John Methven explores the evolution of cosleeping and traces it from its origins as a practice borne out of religious superstition to the practice as it stands today — a social obligation that married people just do until the kids are out of the house and finally the one who snores can sleep in the bedroom of the kid with the most comfortable mattress.

Methven's search began with his own insomnia which, turns out, was brought on by the fact that sleeping with someone right there in the same bed every night was seriously impeding his shut-eye.

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People may have started sleeping together for practical purposes, says Methven. Humans didn't exactly nail down indoor temperature regulation until fairly recently, and so during long winters, couples needed each other to keep warm. Beds were also expensive, and housing cramped (still is in many urban centers today). In fact, for much of human history — and in some places to this day — entire families shared the same bed. [Did the parents just have sex next to their kids? How did that even work?]

But my favorite reason people started sleeping together is because nighttime is vewy scawy.

"Night, man's first necessary evil, inspired widespread fear before the Industrial Revolution," [professor and author Robert] Ekirch says. "Never did families feel more vulnerable than when they retired at night. Bedmates afforded a strong sense of security, given the prevalence of perils, real and imagined—from thieves and arsonists to ghosts, witches, and the prince of darkness himself."

Laughing at our old timey ancestors for being afraid of the dark is one thing, but don't pretend that you don't still sometimes run up the basement stairs like Lucifer himself is behind you after turning off the lights.

And so here we are today, continuing down the path forged by our forebears, sharing a master bedroom and fantasizing about heavenly matching twin beds like Lucy and Desi.

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DISCUSSION

[Did the parents just have sex next to their kids? How did that even work?]

Yes, essentially. Sex among the lower classes was not such a private thing at all. It's not like their rudimentary houses had interior walls, and if they did, they were very thin and sound easily permeated throughout the house (and beyond). Even the upper classes had sex on their wedding night in front of the court. Sometimes the children would have lofted bedrooms, sometimes couples would run into the woods, or the barn (a tumble in the hay), but there was very little privacy, and it was normal for the kids to be sleeping on one end of the hut and parents have sex at the other end, with a low fire and a whole 15 feet between them.