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Are you wondering how to create an ideal sleep environment for your baby? You’ve come to the right place! In this post, we’ll share the three main components needed to foster a healthy sleep space. Spoiler, these tips usually work wonders for children and adults, too!
Room temperature plays a key role in fostering good and safe sleep for babies. The most common evidence-based recommendation is to keep a sleeping baby’s room between 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit. Other research recommends as low as 61 degrees Fahrenheit, but no studies have ever recommended above 72°F. There is some speculation that babies who are accustomed to warmer climates may prefer slightly warmer room temperatures, while the opposite is true for babies accustomed to cooler climates.
Overheating can raise the risk of SIDS. This is one of the reasons why room sharing is recommended for the first 12 months. Caregivers are far more likely to notice a room that’s uncomfortably hot or cold when they are in the same room as the baby. However, many video monitors do include a temperature reading of baby’s room, which is helpful as well. Make sure not to bundle your baby in clothes and bedding. In general, one additional light layer than yourself is all your baby needs.
In addition to temperature, airflow is also important for an ideal sleep environment for babies. Proper ventilation ensures appropriate carbon dioxide levels, which improves sleep quality and safety. Research has demonstrated a 72% reduction in SIDS with the use of a fan, and a 36% decrease in SIDS with the opening of a window in baby’s room.
Artificial light disrupts our circadian rhythms – there’s no doubt about it. Babies are most sensitive, as they haven’t been exposed to artificial light for very long! The transition from a dark womb to our bright world is a major shock for newborns. Our bodies rely on the absence of light to trigger a cascade of hormones that promote sleep.
So, how dark is dark enough for your baby’s ideal sleep environment? Try the hand test. Close the curtains, turn off the lights, and extend your hand in front of you. If you can still see your hand, it’s not dark enough!
Blackout curtains are an essential baby product that many new parents overlook. Others may worry that making the room “too dark” will cause their baby to be a finicky sleeper, but the opposite is true. Babies who sleep well at home are more adaptable.
What about a night light or lighting for nighttime feedings? Try a red bulb. Warm light interferes less with melatonin production, for both you and your baby! Keep the lights as low as possible at night for feedings, and don’t worry about using a night light for fear of the dark just yet. Children who do develop a fear of the dark typically do so around 2-3 years old at minimum.
Sound, specifically white noise, is crucial for your baby’s ideal sleep environment. In the womb, white noise is present constantly, from blood rushing through through your arteries. The absence of this rhythmic sound can be unsettling for newborns. Similarly, all voices and household sounds were muffled prior to birth. Now that baby is on the outside, these everyday noises can easily become overstimulating. The answer is a white noise machine!
White noise should be played at a volume that’s about the same as if a shower was running in the room. Ideally, place the white noise machine across the room from your baby’s sleep space, not right next to the crib.
Ideal baby sleep environment = “baby cave”
A cool, dark room with the steady hum of white noise is the perfect sleep environment for babies. If it sounds a bit “cave-like,” you’re on the right track! Babies learn to love their sleep space when it’s a consistent, calm place where their needs are met. You want your baby to associate their sleep space with positive, comforting feelings. Setting up an ideal sleep environment is the first step in this process. After that, the stage is set for healthy sleep conditioning!