Sleep and Your Baby’s Immune System

One powerful preventative measure we parents can take is to teach and provide quality sleep, a necessity for maintaining the health of our child’s immune system.

There are few things worse than seeing your baby or child suffer through the symptoms of a cold or flu. As parents we do everything we can to keep them as healthy and safe as possible. One powerful preventative measure we parents can take is to teach and provide quality sleep, a necessity for maintaining the health of our child’s immune system. Here’s why:

Our bodies have a natural circadian rhythm that is dictated by the earth’s rotation and the rising and setting of the sun. When we are sleeping within these natural biological rhythms, we get optimum, quality sleep. Sleep cycles are whole and healthy and most importantly, we get what’s called slow-wave sleep. This component of a sleep cycle helps clear waste, toxins, and stress that build up on the brain each day. It has incredible protective and restorative benefits. But if we are not sleeping within our natural biological rhythms, sleep is fragmented multiple times during the night and we prevent this slow-wave sleep from taking place.

Another important key to a healthy immune system is our microbiome, the healthy bacteria living in our bodies, which is affected by our circadian rhythms as well. If our babies are sleeping poorly, the essential bacteria in their gut and colon have trouble digesting fiber and other vitamins and nutrients from their food. These same gut microbes also help manufacture serotonin, which is a building block to melatonin production. What this means is that all in all, poor gut health negatively impacts sleep.

One way to improve your baby’s sleep health is to work to consolidate sleep with as few wakings and fragmentation as possible throughout the night (once the child is old enough to consolidate calories during the day, meaning they don’t need to be fed every few hours). This process may begin as early as between four and six months, depending on your child’s health and development, as well as your pediatrician’s recommendations.

Napping well during the day and going to bed early at night can help with this. The timing of sleep really impacts how healthy the sleep cycles will be. Poor sleep-timing results in incomplete sleep cycles and fragmentation, no matter how many hours of sleep your child gets.

Lastly, it is always important to consider your child’s chemical exposure. While we can’t control it completely, we can make a significant impact in one area that really counts: the mattress they sleep on. Make sure their mattress is free of dangerous chemicals that are known to cause significant health problems, such as fire retardants, phthalates and formaldehyde. A waterproof mattress with a removable machine washable cover helps prevent unhealthy bacteria growth, as a mattress can be a breeding ground for all kinds of things with the accumulation of spit up, vomit, sweat and leaky diapers! My go-to recommendation is the Lullaby Earth Breathable Breeze Crib Mattress. It’s an amazing, non-toxic and hygienic option that fits the bill nicely, and without breaking the bank. Free from all of those dangerous chemicals found in standard crib mattresses, your baby will be able to safely sleep and truly restore as you work to improve and restore their immune system.

Sleep well and stay well!

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Jenni June Certified Child and Family Sleep Consultant, CLC and  practitioner member of the National Sleep Foundation and the Breathe Institute in Los Angeles