Our baby sleep expert, Dr Kate Johnson of Babysomnia, shares her top tips for creating a peaceful sleeping environment for baby.
Think about what it’s like for us. We adults get tired too, but we know how to recognise it!
We (hopefully) take ourselves off to bed and get comfortable before drifting off. We don’t simply fall asleep if our environment isn’t conducive to sleep – you know that feeling you get when you wake up after falling asleep in an uncomfortable chair, or when you can’t stay awake at your desk?
It’s the same for babies, they need their sleep environment to be the right one.
Create a restful bedroom
Creating a sleep-friendly environment for both day and night sleep is a vital part of promoting good sleep.
Some parents believe it is best to get their baby used to sleeping in noisy, unpredictable locations in order to make them more adaptable, but research has shown that people of all ages sleep best under conditions of cool, dark, and quiet.
The room temperature shouldn’t be too hot or too cold, ideally around 16-20°C.
Our body temperature needs to drop at times during the night and given that over-bundling and overheating have been associated with increased risk of SIDS, a cooler bedroom temperature is considered safer and more conducive to sleep.
It’s important to dress your baby appropriately for the temperature.
Be sure your baby’s feet are covered with socks, a sleeper, or a wearable blanket.
Evaluate your baby’s core temperature by putting a couple of fingers down his chest or back. He should feel warm and dry at the core.
If he’s clammy, sweaty, or hot, he may be overheating. Don’t worry if your young baby’s nose, fingers, or ears feel a little cool to the touch, as this is typical due to tiny blood vessels and developing circulation; it does not mean your baby is too cold.
Darkness at night is non-negotiable.
want your baby’s little body in the dark from her desired bedtime until her desired wake up time. Very dim nightlights for safety or comfort may be used, but keep them as far away from your child as possible and tucked behind a piece of furniture.
If you can, stick to orange or amber light colours; stay away from blue and green lights. If you are currently experiencing a nighttime sleep problem, turn off all screens, phones, and tablets 30–60 minutes before your child’s bedtime and keep them off throughout the night.
During the day, darkness is important because it helps to neutralize surroundings and make them less interesting.
A napping room should be too dark to read.
My favourite tips for darkening a room include: blackout material from any local fabric store and a box of thumbtacks; blackout cellular shades/lined drape combo; or even a dark beach towel or quilt draped over a window.
For light cracks, some double-sided tape or velcro can adhere a curtain to a wall quickly and easily.
Humans sleep best in the quiet! It’s possible your baby can learn to go back to sleep after being awakened by a noise, but we prefer to prevent that from happening in the first place.
If it’s a room that’s prone to a lot of loud noise from outside, or the rest of the house, try using a white noise machine.
Kate graduated from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) in 1997 and a Ph.D. in 2001. Kate has since worked, lectured and written extensively about sleep and done further study in the field, including undertaking Postdoctoral fellowships in the Human Sleep and Neuroscience Programs at Stanford Research Institute and the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.