Did you know that the temperature influences your sleep? Sleeping in an optimal temperature will make your little one - & you! - sleep better & for longer stretches.
Have you ever noticed that a little bit before your normal bedtime, you grab a blanket and start to feel cold? This is linked to your body's natural internal clock - the circadian rhythm. Your body temperature changes throughout the day; it reaches a peak mid-afternoon and begins to drop. This drop helps initiate sleep (it doesn't make you sleep, however), reaching its lowest point at about 2 hours after our normal bedtime (regardless if we are asleep or not!). Melatonin is released when our bodies' temperature drops, making us feel sleepy.
Just thinking about this, it means that we need a cooler temperature to fall asleep and stay asleep. Generally, our bodies follow the natural rise and fall of the temperature outside. However, in today's world with heaters and air-conditioners, sometimes our bodies don't begin that drop naturally because our brains don't receive the message that the temperature has dropped. If a home is too heated, the body has a hard time releasing the heat in order to allow that temperature drop and release of melatonin.*1
Believe it or not, but the optimal temperature for sleep is about 18-20°C (65°F). Higher or lower than this can contribute to poor quality and quantity of sleep.
There are several things we can do to promote the drop in body temperature to help promote sleep while being comfortable in our homes.
1 - Working with bathtime
Using bathtime to your advantage is a great way to help baby's body temperature drop to the optimal temperature. If the bathtime is close to their bedtime, make sure it is just a warm bath. If the bath is too warm, it will take 2+ hours for the core body temperature to drop and will make it hard to fall asleep. If your little one likes warmer baths, then consider doing a bath before dinner or earlier in the day.
2 - Mild exercise for older children
A little bit of exercise a couple of hours before bedtime is a great way not only to get rid of some extra energy in your little one but also helps body temperature drop. Just make sure they have enough time to "cool down"!
3 - Using sunlight
Our body's internal clock is linked to light and how much we are exposed to it. Getting your little one plenty of sunlight during the day, and more specifically, in the afternoon can help the natural release of melatonin later in the day.
4 - Appropriate clothing
Keeping clothing lightweight and cool will help your little one feel comfortable throughout the night. We want to make sure they aren't too covered up! 100% cotton layers are the way to go. If you are swaddling in those first months, just make sure your little one has a lightweight cotton onesie on underneath.
On the other side, if they are waking early in the morning, this could mean that they are feeling a little cold when the body's core temperature drops even more. This can be resolved easily by putting on some socks and making sure their bath isn't too warm before bedtime.
Aden&Anais Muslin swaddles, Ergo Baby Swaddle, Aden&Anais Sleep Sack Muslin Cotton, Love to Dream Swaddle Up
Temperature & SIDS prevention
Overheating in infants has been connected with SIDS.
We want to avoid adding any blankets or bumpers that could add too much insulation and overheat. Most of the heat escapes from the head, and for this reason, we do not want to ever cover your little one's head for sleep.
For lack of blankets according to safe sleep practices, you can use one extra layer of clothing than that of an adult. You could use a lightweight swaddle or a sleep sack with a low Tog for example.
If you have any questions about putting this advice to work, don't hesitate to reach out! I would love to hear from you and know your thoughts.
- Walker, M. - Why We Sleep: the new science os sleep and dreams (2017)