THE ENVIRONMENT FOR SLEEP
Your child’s sleep environment is a huge contributing factor we commonly see as a cause for frequent night wakes, poor napping and an unsettled baby or child.
So what are the factors that we look at for setting up your baby’s sleep environment? And could you change or add in anything to help aid their settling and sleep?
✖️The temperature of your child’s room is one of the main reasons a bag will wake, especially overnight and in the colder seasons we are currently experiencing in winter. Typically a baby will wake if they are either too hot or too cold, but mainly the cooler option being the culprit. Typically, we would recommended this ranging around 18-21 degrees, but a steady 21 degree temperature is what we have found to be most successful in limiting frequent wakings due to bubs becoming cold.
✖️Our bodies naturally drop their temperature when we drift off to sleep, so adding in a cooler sleep environment can cause the body to wake if it becomes too cold. This is usually a wake caused around 3am onwards, where the cooler part of the night can set in. Dressing your baby for the ‘coldest’ part of the night helps to prevent this, along with regulating the temperature of the room.
✖️Light signals the brain to make serotonin, or the happy hormone, thus making it harder to fall asleep. Serotonin is converted into melatonin once the light is blocked. By the 60th day of life, a baby's pineal gland has become mature enough it now can produce and release it's own melatonin. Melatonin is produced and released best when there is NO light, hence why the darkest sleep environment is such an important factor with babies sleep. Our biological clocks are entrained by the light each day, thus why we sleep overnight when its dark! How can you help your baby’s sleep? The darker the room, the better!
✖️ Rule of thumb is if you can read the words on the page of a book or magazine, then the room isn't dark enough. A black out blind works wonders! For babies who sleep ok, but wake after one sleep cycle and see the daylight or light peeping through the curtains or window - this can be a sign for them to stay awake, making it difficult to either fall back asleep or become overtired. Use light in your wake up routine when you’re ready for them to wake up after their nap is achieved! Especially early morning wakes!
✖️ For Babies under the age of 12 Months, especially newborn-4 months, white noise is an excellent settling tool! It mimics the noise of the womb environment - the muffled voices a baby would hear, the swooshing and pumping of the blood through the arteries and all other internal sounds. To be successful it needs to be around 85-95 decibels in volume, and pay consistently throughout all your baby’s naps and sleep. It encourages a resettle into the next sleep cycle and also adds as a calming and buffering noise from stimulating external noises.
✖️ Distractions are a BIG factor when it comes to winding down and sleep. Commonly, on a home visit we will find numerous toys, teddies, a mobile or a light projector in a baby’s room. Although these look really nice and were probably expensive, what they can in fact do is distract your child/baby when they are tired and ready for sleep, even by 5 extra minutes, and cause them to become overtired or fight sleep due to playing with toys or becoming stimulated by watching a light show! Use these in your wind down routine instead, and once in the cot - focus on sleep!
For more information on how you can aid your child sleep, especially their sleep environment - check out of sleep guides!