A recent study in the journal Pediatrics, found that baby’s sleep environments have greater impacts on sleep than the genetics they were born with. Of course, the age-old debate continues when talking about the importance of environment versus genetics (or nature versus nurture), and I think that most experts would agree that both have significant impacts on all facets of our life. But for now, some studies suggest that environment plays a bigger role in how your baby sleeps.
Wow- this is great news for us as parents, because most sleep environments really are within our realm of control. Of course, we may have to work around some obstacles in creating good sleeping environments for our children — barking dogs, busy streets, etc. But having a set of comforting and predictable rituals to help them prepare physically and psychologically for sleep can be really simple. So here are some tips for creating a ‘sleep friendly’ routine and environment for your children (and even yourself).
Try incorporating some of these activities into the bedtime routine (3 is plenty). With the exception of baths and tooth-brushing, the bedtime routine should take place in the child’s nursery or bedroom.
- put on pajamas
- brush teeth
- go potty
- read books
- sing a short song
- share three things about your day
- tell a story
- listen to music
- baby or toddler yoga
- small sippy cup of water with books
- bottle or nursing
- prayers, blessings, or sending kisses and love to other people
- plenty of hugs and kisses
Also, here are some general tips for creating a sleep friendly bedroom environment for your child:
- Install room-darkening shades if your child’s bedroom gets too much light, he wakes up very early, or has trouble napping; but leave a dim night-light on so that you can see him when you check on him. He’ll probably sleep more soundly with that little bit of light too, although some children do better in total darkness.
- Consider playing white noise or nature music if your child’s room isn’t very soundproof and you have a barking dog, loud neighbors, older siblings, live on a busy street, etc. Children do learn to sleep through routine household sounds (and they should to a large extent), but some places are just really loud and some kids are really sensitive. White noise is a constant sound that helps to block out noise; you can buy a white noise machine, or try turning on a fan. I discourage using music to mask noise; kids can get too dependent on it—meaning they’ll want someone to come in and restart their music every time they wake up.
- Be sure to remove any televisions or computers from your child’s bedroom. TV or other electronics can give the body a sense of false restoration making it easier for him to fight off sleep.
In keeping up with recent research studies and articles such as this, we can apply what we learn to help our children! Here’s a link to the article that discusses this growing body of research: http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/ct-x-infant-sleep-environment-20120620,0,1240687.story