Childhood Poverty Impacts Child Health Without a Bedroom Set

Today, let's delve into the issue of bed poverty and its’ impact on children's sleep. Bed poverty occurs when a child doesn't have a proper bed to sleep in. This issue affects about 2-3% of children in the Americas, and even more children in the UK. Also known as ‘child bedlessness,’ bed poverty encompasses various situations: children sleeping on sofas, floors, or sharing beds with siblings or parents due to a lack of having their own bed. It can also involve having a broken bed, or being unable to wash bedding due to financial constraints.

The Importance of a Comfortable Sleep Environment

Creating an aesthetic bedroom with suitable bedroom sets and thoughtful bedroom ideas can significantly impact a child's sleep quality. A designated, comfortable, and clean sleeping area is essential for children's daytime functioning. When children don't have a proper bed, they are more likely to be sleep deprived, leading to fatigue, difficulty paying attention in school, and behavioral issues like hyperactivity or impulse control. Sleep deprivation can also hinder their cognitive performance and overall mental health. Having a good place to sleep can make a huge difference in a child’s well-being.

Who Is at Risk?

Children living in childhood poverty are at a higher risk of experiencing bed poverty. In the United States, children in families earning 100% or less of the federal poverty rate have significantly higher rates of sleep deprivation. Only 47% of these children get adequate sleep compared to 75% of children in families earning 400% of the federal poverty rate.

Children aged 6 to 12 years old need between 9 to 12 hours of sleep each night, which is more than the 7 to 9 hours that adults require. Therefore, having a dedicated sleeping space is crucial for their well-being.

For safety reasons, young children shouldn’t sleep in an arm chair or sofa with an adult. And likewise, should never share the sleep space with an adult who’s been drinking or is otherwise intoxicated.

What makes an Ideal Place to Sleep?

Sometimes space is tight, and resources are slim, making it harder to create a good place for children to sleep. Generally speaking, we want sleep spaces to be dark, quiet, cool, comfortable, clean, and uncluttered. Taking the time to be creative can help this happen. Here are a few innovative solutions:

- When space is limited, if people need to sleep in the main living space, here’s a couple ideas: make a place to sleep that’s out of the way of others who are staying up later. One way to do this is to put a bed behind a sofa or another sturdy, low, piece of furniture.

- Have the people who go to sleep earliest (or who sleep the longest) use the bedroom so that they have quiet. Plan ahead by having all the things you need out of the bedroom so they can sleep undisturbed.

- Ask that whoever is staying up latest be quiet. Using headphones or having another room set up for evening activity can help. Make use of porches or outdoor areas when weather allows while others are sleeping indoors.

- Despite space limitations, implement other healthy sleep habits. Dim the lights an hour or more before bed, and turn off electronic screens at that time. Then do something relaxing such as read or listen to a book, or take a bath, or do some gentle stretching. Check out my article on Ideal Wind Down Routines for a full plan.

- When many people are sharing one bedroom, putting privacy screens around the bed can make it a better place to sleep. This can be as simple as a folding screen placed around the bed, or fabric hung around the bed so that it is enclosed.

- In order to sleep well, our mind needs to rest. Yet seeing projects or toys from bed can trigger our thoughts and make it difficult to sleep. Drape fabric over work, projects, and computers, and put things away out of sight as best you can. Particularly helpful are the low, wide, boxes that will slide under a bed or sofa. You may want to join a free-cycling group in your neighborhood to get storage bins. Check out ‘Buy Nothing’ for your neighborhood on Facebook.

Support and Solutions

Fortunately, several nonprofits are addressing this issue. For instance, "Sleep in Heavenly Peace" in the Americas has provided over 160,000 beds since 2012. In the UK, organizations like Barnardo's and Zarach offer similar support, providing beds and sometimes additional items like pajamas and hygiene items.

If your family needs more beds, these organizations can be a valuable resource. They often include not only the bed frame and mattress but also bedding and other essentials. You may also find an organization near you by searching “get a free bed near me,” or similar search terms. School counselors or staff may know of programs in your area that help with getting beds.

For those interested in helping, donations of time or money to organizations like Sleep in Heavenly Peace can make a real difference for kids and families. Along with donations, volunteers are needed to assemble beds and then distribute them to families in need.


Addressing bed poverty is a crucial step in ensuring every child gets the sleep they need. A clean, comfortable, designated spot for sleep is essential for their health, academic success, and overall well-being. I hope this information helps raise awareness and offers solutions.

Good night and sleep well,

Dr. Catherine Darley

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About the Author: Dr. Catherine Darley

Dr. Catherine Darley is a pioneering internationally recognized expert in the use of natural, behavioral and lifestyle medicine for the treatment of sleep disorders. Dr. Darley founded the Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine to fill the need for natural, less invasive solutions to a common problem–poor sleep.  

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