Why I Unbunked My Kids’ Beds (And You Should, Too)

Last Updated on October 9, 2021 by admin

When my youngest got big enough for a big kid bed, our first thought was to set up bunk beds for our two boys. 

They were super excited to use the bunk beds that my husband had used as a kid, which were sitting unbunked at their grandpa’s house being used as guest beds. 

We assumed that bunking the beds would open up their shared bedroom and make it a little more versatile and fun.

And for a while, it was fun — and a big hit with visitors. But the bunk beds came with unexpected downsides. Due to those downsides, I unbunked them a few years later. I was truly surprised at the relief I felt once the beds were both on the floor.

You might be able to avoid the whole misstep if you consider a few of these bunk bed downsides from the outset.

Bunk beds might not save as much space as you think.

Like many parents, we read bedtime stories to our kids each night in their bedroom. The comfy glider we’d had in our nursery slowly got too small for the job.

The solution we eventually came up with to replace the glider was to put a small secondhand sofa in the room. I didn’t love the sofa, but it gave them somewhere to sit and read during the day and at bedtime. The bottom bunk felt too dark and enclosed for reading, and the rails made it awkward for parents to squirm in and out of it at story time.

At some point I realized that if we hadn’t bunked the beds, we could all just sit on someone’s bed for story time and lean against the wall with a pillow.

The bottom line: If you have to invest in a giant bean bag, chair or floor pillow to make up for the inability to comfortably sit on the kids’ bed, it might not be as space-saving as you think.

Plus, two beds on the floor means you have the capacity for twice the under-bed storage.

Bunk beds make sleeping conditions warmer.

Both of my kids seem to be warm sleepers. They frequently flip their pillows to get to the cool side and ask to sleep without shirts.

Sleeping closer to the ceiling is naturally warmer because heat rises, which made things warmer for the top bunk sleeper. And because our bunk bed was up against the wall in a corner of the room, the airflow was pretty bad for the bottom bunk sleeper, too.

Bunk beds might block natural light. 

In my kids’ room, there was no way to situate the bunk beds that didn’t require blocking one of the three windows.

This might not be an issue in your kids room, but even if the window isn’t blocked directly, consider that it might limit the flow of light coming from the window to other parts of the room.

This problem was a little worse for us because of the bunk bed design, which was completely solid on the front and back sides.

Bunk beds make it more difficult to change the sheets.

Changing sheets is already one of my least favorite chores. I usually end up hurting my fingers trying to shove fresh sheets in between the mattress and the bedframe. 

This chore only gets more annoying when you can’t do it standing on the floor and have to navigate around safety guardrails.

Bunk beds make it difficult to clean in and around the bed.

Kids are gross, right? At least mine are. They think nothing of sleeping on a pillowcase covered in nosebleed blotches night after night. Unless you make a special effort to go up and assess over the top bunk situation, it might take days or longer to notice smears of various things all over the walls or linens. And when you do discover them and insist that your kid scrub off those smears, it can be a tall order that ends up getting soap and water all over the bed. 

Also, when I finally moved the bunk beds away from the window, I was shocked how much dust had gathered on the sill and the blinds. All the extra dust makes sense considering how much time we all spend sleeping in our bedrooms, but I hadn’t really considered beforehand how the bunk beds might have exacerbated that dustiness.

Bunk beds make extended snuggles awkward. 

Yes, kids are gross, but they’re also pretty cute. When top bunk guy has a nightmare or we’ve had a rough day and I want to take a minute to snuggle him at bedtime, it’s only more awkward when you have to perch on a ladder during the experience.

Bunk beds add a little danger to the bedtime routine.

This was the very least of my problems with bunk beds, because top bunk guy was certainly old enough for me to feel safe with him coming up and down on his own.

However, we did have a ceiling fan that freaked him out when he would try to rearrange his sheets toward the bottom of his bed. And I did occasionally worry about him navigating the ladder when he woke up in the middle of the night groggy.

We never had any bunk-bed-related accidents. However, sleep is such a huge factor in our mood and brain function that making it as easy as possible for your kids to get back to sleep after a night time wake up is something to consider.

Best uses of bunk beds 

Most of the people who invest in bunk beds probably do it because there literally wouldn’t be enough room otherwise. If this describes you, none of the bunk bed downsides I listed in this post will really matter.

All that said, bunk beds can also be a nice luxury for special occasions or sleepovers if you have the room to spare, especially if:

  • the bunk beds won’t be blocking natural light
  • you have the patience to regularly clean around the beds (or money to invest in someone who can do it for you)
  • your kids don’t get especially warm during sleep (or you can ensure that air moves freely around both beds)

If you can, it might make sense to wait until the top bunk kid is old enough (or tidy enough) to not need to be monitored for gross wall smears and to have very infrequent nighttime wakeups. 

If you’ve had a better experience with bunk beds, let me know in the comments.