How to Create the Ideal Sleep Environment.
Having a great sleep environment is pivotal to getting great sleep for many reasons including melatonin production, a calm atmosphere and, of course, safe sleep.
There are a few key components that contribute to an ideal sleep environment which I will detail below. You would be amazed how small tweaks can make the biggest difference.
The temperature in a baby's room is important for their safety, overheating can be dangerous if their room is too hot or they are next to a radiator. However, a cool room is important for ALL of our sleep - including adults. We all get the best quality sleep if our temperature drops beforehand - hence why those heatwaves really affect us. Our core body temperature is around 37 degrees Celsius, however, around two hours before we go to sleep this begins to drop to prepare us for a restful night. This coincides with the release of melatonin (our sleep hormone).
Therefore, providing a cool environment for our little one's bodies to fall asleep more comfortably is essential for the quality of their sleep. If it is too hot/cold it will make it harder for a baby to fall and stay asleep. The ideal temperature is said to be between 16-20 degrees Celsius. If your house is tricky to control the temperature, think about dressing the baby for the temperature of their bedroom to ensure they are cool enough.
If you are worried about your baby's temperature, the best thing to do is feel their chest/tummy area and if it feels hot to touch or sweaty, they are too hot and you should consider removing a layer.
I cannot explain how important this one is. Melatonin production is severely impacted by light. The quality of sleep in a dark, cool room is so much better. Darkness is essential to our sleep. Light exposure at the wrong time can change the body's internal 'clock' and interfere with quality and quantity sleep.
If your child is scared of the dark, use a very dim red night light to comfort them as it doesn't penetrate the eyelids and disrupt melatonin in the same way. Ditching any night lights or projectors in your little one's room is a sure way to improve the quality of their sleep.
During the day, we produce very little melatonin, therefore you may find they can sleep in lighter spaces - however, consider that as they get older, they may find a light room overstimulating due to wanting to look around at everything and therefore, darkness can be helpful here too.
Stick up blackout blinds are a super easy way to block extra light if you are struggling with light getting in. Snoozeshades are also amazing if you want dark naps on the go.
Baby's are easily stimulated, and therefore, if there is a lot of noise around the, they will struggle to settle to sleep and stay asleep. It is difficult to control all noise in your house or on your street, however, it is worth doing some things that may be within your control. I am personally a big fan of white noise in a bedroom to block out as many external noises as possible. The benefits of white noise are that it can increase sleep quality, help reduce stress and help calm a child ready for sleep. It is also a great sleep association to introduce. I have used it since my daughter was a baby and now she asks for it if we forget to turn it on (2 years 10 months). White noise is not addictive so children will not rely on it too much - you can get rid if it if you ever feel the need by gradually turning the volume down each night until it is gone. To ensure you use white noise safely, ensure it is no louder than 50-60dB (you can get apps on your phone to measure this). Try to keep it away from their ears and point it towards where the most noise comes from (on a window if you have a noisy street or next to the door if you have a noisy house).
If siblings share a room and are disturbed by each other, white noise between their beds can be a great way to help. You should keep it on continuously throughout the night and not on a timer.
Try to opt for a sound that is continuous and low rather than nature sounds or music that changes too much.
Extra Safety Tips:
Always place babies to sleep on their back - even if they can roll both ways, this is the safest way for them to start the night.
If the room is hot, use a fan to help cool them.
Sleepsacks are great if they kick their blankets off - and to ensure blankets don't cover their faces.
Remember to place small babies foot to foot - feet should be at the end of the cot.
No pillows/duvets should be in a cot until around 18 months of age.
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