Help Your Child Sleep Better with the Right Environment
Is your bedroom a place of sanctuary, cozy and inviting? Does it help you relax and fall into a peaceful sleep? A child’s bedroom environment should be no different. It should promote healthy sleep with a room that invites relaxation and calm. Whether your child’s bedroom is the nursery, their toddler room, or your shared bedroom, the goal is to create an environment that is conducive for sleep. Making some small changes to your child’s sleep space really can make a difference in their night. Follow these tips below to help you set up their healthy sleep space.
Make the room dark
Having a dark space will help promote sleep for both adults and children. Our bodies read dark as asleep and light as awake. Even if your eyes are closed, the body reads light and if there is too much while you are preparing for and trying to sleep it can interfere with the production of melatonin, which is our body’s natural sleep aid.
How dark should your environment be?
On a scale of 1–10 (10 being pitch black), aim for a level of 7–8 for daytime naps and 9 for just before sleep and throughout the night.
Making the room darker
Blackout blinds and curtains are great for darkening the room. However, oftentimes light will shine through the sides of the blinds. Try taping black Bristol board to the windows, throwing blankets over the curtains or taping the curtains to the wall to eliminate that slit of light.
What about a night light?
Although most babies don't need one, it may be beneficial for you to have one so that you can see where you are going. After having put so much effort into getting your child down to sleep, the last thing you want is to awaken them by stepping on one of their toys when you are checking on them.
Choose one with a very soft glow and pick one with a red or pink light rather than one with a blue or bright white light.
Use a sound machine
Using a sound machine is recommended for a few reasons. They cancel out exterior noises either from outside the house or within the home. They cue your little one that it is time for sleep. It can help parents feel less anxious about waking their sleeping child when there are still things happening elsewhere in the house, like other children, visitors, or a barking dog. Another advantage to using the sound machine is that when travelling or visiting friends or family, using the same sound that is used at home can be comforting and ease the transition to the new space.
When using a sound machine, place it about six feet away from the crib at a low-to-medium setting. If you have two children in separate rooms, or if you would prefer the sound machine outside of the room, placing it in the hallway is another option.
What about the timer function?
Many sound machines are equipped with a timer that automatically shuts off after 45 minutes—the typical duration of a child’s sleep cycle. When purchasing a sound machine, choose one without a timer or with the option to turn the timer off. When children are transitioning from one sleep cycle to the next, they may wake up and expect their surroundings to be the same as when they fell asleep. If their environment has changed (such as the sound machine being off), they may fully wake up, making the transition through sleep cycles much more difficult for them.
Preferred setting sounds are "running water" or "white noise" which are consistent and steady sounds rather than settings with different pitches and volumes such as chirping birds and ocean waves.
Eliminate sources of blue light
Unfortunately there are a lot of children’s sleep products that are blue-light based, which is the worst light for sleep. When your child is exposed to blue light from TV, computer, night lights, or clocks, the body stops producing melatonin. Furthermore, you should eliminate all exposure to blue light 1–2 hours before bedtime for children and adults alike.
If TV is part of your child’s bedtime routine, try moving it earlier into the routine.
Find the optimal temperature
We all know how great it is to snuggle into our blankets in a cooler room and how difficult it can be to fall asleep in the heat. Having your child’s bedroom temperature set between 65–70˚F (18–21˚C) is ideal.
Although blankets are not recommended for little ones, using a sleep sack can help them stay cozy and comfortable through the night even if the room is cooler.
We understand how much work has gone into creating the perfect nursery for your new baby and that removing products with lights and sounds from in or around the bed can seem boring, but they can become sleep-stealer during those critical hours. Some children will be more sensitive to stimulation while others may not seem bothered by it at all. Minimizing the amount of decor in or around your child’s bed including stickers/decals, busy sheets, toys in bed, can go a long way toward teaching your little one that when it is time for sleep, a minimalist space is essential.
Use the mobile to entertain baby during awake time while putting laundry away or try putting it above the change table instead.
Use a consistent sleep area
Now that you have put so much work into setting up your child’s sleep environment, you want to make sure that you are working towards having your child sleep there 90% of the time. Inconsistent sleep environments can be confusing to your child, while a consistent sleep space will help cue your child that it is time for sleep as well as allowing them to learn how to settle faster.
If you have a child who struggles with sleep, then these tips are a must for establishing a basic foundation of optimal sleep health and habits. If sleep troubles continue, consult with a sleep consultant or health practitioner for a deeper look into other possible causes.