How to Create A Healthy Sleep Environment for Your Child - Emily Kelly - Infant Sleep Consultant
Emily Kelly / Infant Sleep Consultant / June 2020
Sleep is multi-faceted and there are many reasons as to why your little one may not be sleeping well for their naps and overnight sleep. However, one of the best (and easiest) places to start is the sleep environment and looking at whether there are any changes that can be made to create a healthy environment that is conducive to sleep.
When I talk to my clients about a healthy sleep environment, I always ask them to think about what they would look for when they want to get some good sleep (day or night). For most, we naturally want a room that is dark, quiet, and cool, and this is no different for our little ones.
Babies are biologically hardwired to only fall asleep when they feel safe, so the environment you create for them can have a strong influence on their willingness and readiness to settle down for sleep.
Below I give my top tips for creating a healthy sleep environment:
Darkness is key. During the daytime, our little ones have small amounts of melatonin in their body, which is the lovely sleepy hormone which is needed in order for us to go to sleep. Getting the room as dark as you can, particularly in the day, supports the pineal gland in producing some melatonin which helps in settling them down for naps, in conjunction with their natural sleep pressure which rises and falls throughout the day.
It is a myth that a newborn baby needs to sleep in a bright, noisy room during the day to support them learning the difference between day and night. The activity that you do with your baby during their awake periods (nappy change, simple play, feed) is more than enough to support them in setting their circadian rhythm.
Studies show that the body lowers its internal temperature at night, which is why a room that is too hot or too cold can cause early waking and restlessness throughout the night.
The Lullaby Trust’s Safer Sleep Guidelines recommends that the room your baby sleeps in should be maintained between 16 and 20 Celsius and they are dressed accordingly.
During the summer months it can be near on impossible to maintain the recommend temperature, so try and keep your little ones room cool by keeping blinds and curtains shut throughout the day, windows open, use a fan if needed and dress your little one in a summer 0.5 tog bag.
White noise is a great tool for soothing an over tired or over stimulated baby, as it mimics the noises they heard when in utero. When using white noise, it should be from a good quality white noise machine and kept at a safe level, usually around 65dB which is the same noise level as a shower. When using white noise, it should also be consistent throughout the duration of sleep in order to keep the sleep environment consistent – this is really important as babies look for consistency when they wake during their sleep cycles.
Simple & Clutter Free
Keep the room and cot simple and clutter free. Lots of toys, bright colours, pictures etc add to your little one’s sensory input at bedtime, making it harder for them to unwind and settle into a relaxed and peaceful sleep.
A clean and simple space helps to build a calm environment for your little one and The Lullaby Trust recommend in their Safe Sleep Guidelines that the cot and/or sleep space should be free from any cot bumpers, toys, duvets, pillows, cushions and loose bedding.
More help and support to help improve your childs sleep can be found at https://www.snoozysleep.co.uk
Emily Kelly is a Certified Infant Sleep Consultant