Of all of the detailed recommendations I provide my families for improving the quality of their infant’s sleep habits, health, and safety, the easiest adjustment with instant improvement is the one that surprises them the most: lowering the temperature of the sleep environment and improving air circulation around their child.
“Research has concluded that 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit is best for baby.”
I often encounter hesitation from some clients regarding this recommendation due to the common, cultural belief that over-bundling one’s baby and keeping the room warm is more beneficial to their health. However, research has concluded that 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit is best for baby. In fact, the cooler end of this temperature range is both optimum for the immune system and safest for infants and children.
If the room is too warm, babies struggle to regulate their core body temperatures, and sometimes even their breathing, during sleep. The result is poor quality sleep and elevated risk for SIDS. The sleep hormone, melatonin, elevates in our system when core body temperatures drop. Yes, babies who are sleeping in warmer rooms will eventually crash, due to exhaustion, if you keep them up long enough, but they are still falling asleep without enough of this powerful sleep hormone at sleep onset that allows them to experience the deeper, more restorative stages of sleep. Their sleep will instead be fragmented and light.
“Humans begin to suffer the ramifications of sleep deprivation after only two consecutive nights of poor sleep!”
It only takes two consecutive nights of poor sleep before humans begin to suffer the ramifications of sleep deprivation, such as elevated stress, poor digestion, crankiness, cognitive impairment, and insomnia, to name just a few. These things are not good for anyone, but especially for a developing infant or child under the age of three! Ultimately, if a child is not sleeping well, neither are their caregivers. And there is no arguing that sleep deprivation negatively impacts the ability to be a fully attuned, patient, and attentive parent.
For those who do not have air conditioning (common to many homes in Northern regions of the country), to help regulate the temperature of sleep environments, here are a few tips on how to prevent your little ones from overheating:
– Use a fan in the room to improve air circulation (just be sure it is not facing and blowing directly on your child).
– Regulate the humidity levels using a cool mist humidifier. This, in combination with a fan, will help cool the room down.
– Dress baby in a single layer, breathable, cotton pajama. If using a swaddle or sleep sack, just a diaper underneath is sufficient in temperatures over 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Invest in a breathable mattress! Lullaby Earth, known for their safe, non-toxic crib mattresses, has created a waterproof mattress wrapped in a breathable mattress pad that provides a pocket of air between baby and the mattress, allowing for 360 degree airflow around your child when they sleep. This Breeze Breathable Crib Mattress also helps baby regulate core body temperatures — dramatically improving sleep quality!
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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