Creating an optimal sleep environment
Updated: Sep 7, 2020
When it comes to promoting great sleep, the first and often simplest place to start is with the sleep environment.
Whether you are room sharing with your little one or sleeping them in their own nursery, it is worthwhile checking that their sleep environment is conducive to sleep. A healthy sleep environment can have a positive impact on our little ones naps and overnight sleep, which in turn means you can get some much needed shut-eye too!
A healthy sleep environment can be of assistance when it comes to your little one settling to sleep initially, as well as by helping them to sleep longer than one sleep cycle.
So, here are some of our top tips when it comes to setting up an optimal sleep environment...
This is definitely the place to start. From around 2 weeks of age we want to ensure that babies are slept in darkness - not just at night but for their naps too.
Their sleep space should be as close to pitch black as possible, ideally it should be much too dark to read a book.
There are a couple of reasons for this - the first being that melatonin, the sleep hormone that our little ones received from us in utero and started producing themselves from around 8 weeks of age, can only be produced in darkness. Light blocks the production of melatonin, essentially inhibiting their sleep hormones from working properly.
The second reason your little one needs a dark sleep environment, is that darkness will hinder their ability to view anything around the room that could stimulate them. This could be as simple as them being able to see a busy wallpaper, a toy in the corner or the room or a mobile above them, which they could find interesting enough to keep them awake or wake them completely between sleep cycles.
Darkness will also assist in discouraging early morning wakes - a baby's sleep cycle is very light in the early morning and even a small amount of light could be enough to illuminate something in the room that the baby finds interesting enough to wake them up and start the day.
I recommend introducing white noise from the beginning to mimic the sound that our little ones grew so accustomed to while they were in the womb. The sound of blood rushing through the placenta was as loud as a vacuum cleaner to their little developing ears. Then, they enter this big wide world and we all start whispering and tip-toeing around so that they can sleep peacefully. It usually has the opposite affect - silence is not appealing to our little ones, where as white noise is soothing and can quickly become a positive sleep prop.
It’s never too late to introduce white noise and it can be used long term. For older babies it is fantastic for helping to drown out noises that could wake them such as dogs barking birds chirping, creaking doors and floors and general noise in and around the home.
Ensure that the white noise you choose plays continuously for the duration of sleep and doesn’t turn off after a set time such as 30 minutes, as this can actually wake our little ones up. We recommend using it at safe volumes no louder than 60 DB and positioned at least 2 meters away from your baby’s sleep space. You can download an app called “DB meter” to test the DB level. For ease, we recommend purchasing a white noise machine from your local baby store.
Temperature & Sleep-Bags
Our little ones undergo their biggest drop in core body temperature at around 3am. The last thing we want is temperature being the cause of an early morning wake that could have otherwise been avoided.
Keeping the room heated to between 19 - 22 degrees celcius in the cooler months is optimal - oil heaters are great for creating a consistently warm room. We also encourage the use of sleep-bags as they eliminate the need for blankets which can be dangerous if not used in line with Red Nose recommendations, and often they are kicked off in the night defeating their purpose.
For the warmer months try a sleeping bag with a lower TOG rating, light cotton layers and a fan if air conditioning is not available.
There you have it, my top tips for creating an optimal sleep environment which can be an absolute game-changer when it comes to a healthy sleep routine!
If you have any questions, or are unsure whether your little one's sleep space is as conducive to sleep as it could be, reach out and I will be more than happy to help.