Healthy sleep habits for your baby or child are extremely important for their overall health and well being. The path to developing healthy sleep skills can begin at any time, but the earlier the better. Even a newborn needs a good sleep environment in order to have a good, long sleep each night and for naps. Having the ideal sleep environment will make it easier for your little one to fall asleep independently and stay asleep longer (which we all want!). Here are my top tips for creating the perfect sleep environment for your baby.
The temperature of the room does matter!
Did you know that most little ones prefer to sleep in a room that is on the cool side rather than warm? Studies have shown that sleeping in a room that is too warm can actually be detrimental to infant sleep. Just like for many adults, a room that is too warm can make it very difficult for your child to fall asleep. Parents often think that a very warm room will help their baby to fall asleep or will ensure that they stay warm throughout the night, but it actually tends to make it much harder for babies to fall asleep. As well, it is also suggested that it may be unsafe for babies to sleep in a warm room due as warm temperatures can increase the risk for SIDS. I recommend to all of my clients to make sure that the temperature of their little one’s room is between 18 and 21 degrees Celcius. The clothing your little one wears to bed is also important. Generally, a baby should only need one layer more than an adult, so there is no need for too many layers or blankets. During the colder months, it’s a great idea to use a sleep sack instead of a blanket (if your baby likes them) so that you don’t have to worry about blankets falling off. Remember cool and comfy, not warm and stuffy.
A bare crib is best
Mobiles, toys, blankets, bumpers etc can all make it more difficult for your baby to fall asleep. When there are lots of exciting and stimulating things to look at, why fall asleep? This is the baby version of having a TV in your bedroom! All the extra items can be too distracting, but can also be very unsafe. Health Canada recommends using only a firm mattress with a fitted sheet as bumper pads, pillows and quilts can increase the risk of suffocation. Most children don’t need a pillow until close to 2 years old and a sleep sack can be used instead of a blanker. A “lovey” is fine to place in the crib with your baby, just be sure it is not big enough to cover the baby’s face and that it doesn’t have small pieces that could come off if the baby chews on it.
The darker the better
A very dark room is ideal for all sleep, daytime naps included. Light is an extremely powerful tool to our bodies. As sunlight hits our skin and is absorbed, our bodies naturally release chemicals that send us the cue that it is time to be awake. The more light you can block from your baby’s room the better. Just as light cues us to wake, darkness cues us that it’s time to sleep, so having a dark room will signal your baby that it’s still time to sleep if they wake in the night or early in the morning. If you have an older child that is afraid of the dark, a dim night light can be used. Keep in mind, babies are not afraid of the dark, so don’t worry when keeping their room completely dark. A dark room = sweet dreams for little ones.
White noise can prevent your baby from waking too early.
Using white noise in your baby or toddler’s room can help them sleep longer and more soundly by blocking out environmental noise. You would be surprised at how the slightest outside noise can arouse a baby in a light sleep state, particularly early in the morning. When using white noise, be sure that it is truly white noise, meaning that it is a static sound. Ocean waves or rain sounds can get louder and then quieter, which can interrupt your baby’s sleep and become a prop. White noise should never be a prop, it should only be used to buffer other sounds that could wake your baby. White noise is also a great tool if you like to travel or if your baby naps in different environments (eg. grandma’s house, daycare etc). It will provide a consistent, quiet environment for your baby’s sleep. If you are investing in a white noise machine, don’t bother with all the bells and whistles. The most simple machine is all you need.
Creating a dark, quiet, peaceful space will help your baby fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. If you find that your baby is having trouble sleeping, look around their room and see if there are changes you can make to their sleep environment. Sometimes the simplest changes have the biggest impact.