Creating the Perfect Sleep Environment
If you’re not sure how much your sleep environment affects you, try sleeping with the lights on. Without a blanket. On the floor.
Creating an ideal sleep environment for your baby will go a long way in helping him sleep better at night. This is something that parents underestimate all the time. Oftentimes, we don’t realize how much our environment affects us in any setting that we’re in.
Think of a corporate office. If the desks were replaced with couches and employees came to work in yoga pants, the vibe just wouldn’t be the same. Going to a spa for a facial and massage wouldn’t be relaxing with rock music blaring from the speakers.
In every setting, environment sets the tone and sends a message to your subconscious mind of what’s going to occur. Environments teach us what to expect and how to behave. Creating a relaxing environment that’s conducive towards sleep will teach your baby to expect that sleep is coming, and help him sleep better for naps and nights.
So, what makes for the perfect sleep environment?
1. Darkness. The first step to encourage sleep is to keep it dark. Really dark. As in, as dark as possible. I’m looking at you, cute little nightlight with the sweet owl-face. Get rid of it. Even the slightest bit of light reduces melatonin levels in your baby’s brain – and without melatonin, nobody’s sleeping.
Don’t worry about leaving your baby in a dark room. Babies aren’t developmentally capapable of being afraid of the dark. That comes later, between the ages of two and three years. Think about it: your baby has spent her entire existence in your dark, dark womb with no owl-face nightlight. The darker the room, the better she’ll sleep.
Blackout curtains are hugely helpful in keeping your baby’s room dark. This does an even better job than blackout curtains and is very easy to pop onto the windows of your nursery.
2. White Noise. White noise is great for baby sleep. It mimics the sounds your baby heard in utero – and let me tell you, it was not quiet in there! There was a constant rush of sound that your baby heard around the clock, like your thumping heartbeat, rushing blood flow, and your never ending inhale, exhale. White noise reminds your baby of these sounds and soothes him to sleep.
It also has the huge advantage of blocking out outside sounds that occur in your home as your baby sleeps, such as a ringing phone ringing, a running vacuum, or your Spotify playlist.
Because sleep works in cycles, your baby actually wakes up many times throughout the night and remains in a semi-aroused state while transitioning to the next sleep cycle. White noise helps each transition become a more seamless process without yoru baby waking in between.
Can your baby become dependent on white noise? Yes. I personally need white noise to sleep at night, as well as a pillow, a blanket, and a bed. I place white noise in the same category as other sleep essentials. I don’t know of any parents who are concerned that their baby will become dependant on a blanket, and I see white noise in a similar vein. It’s a great tool to help sleep. It doesn’t bother anyone else, is easily portable, and doesn’t require a parent to be involved with it throughout the night.
We all have things that we depend on to sleep. Don’t believe me? Try sleeping on the floor. We all have items and elements that help us sleep better (earplugs, anyone?) and as long as they are not detrimental to sleep and are not safety hazards, I’m not concerned.This white noise machine is the one I use and love. Here is a more affordable option as well.
(Besides, if the idea really bothers you, there are simple and effective ways to wean your baby off of white noise, just like you’d wean him off a bottle.)
3. Bare Crib. According to the Safe Sleep Guidelines published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, your baby’s should be completely bare for the first 12 months of life. This means no pillows, blankets, bumpers, stuffed animals or positioners. If you’re concerend that your baby might be cold, a sleep sack is a great alternative that can keep your baby warm and safe at the same time. Sleep positioners and wedges are dangerous, even for babies who have reflux. They pose risks for suffocation and entrapment. Don’t use them.
4. Video Monitor. This can be helpful if you want the extra security of being able to check on your baby without going in to her room. Of course, if you’re ever concerened about anything, always go in and check on your baby in person right away.
It doesn’t take a lot of work to create the perfect sleep environment for your baby. A dark room, white noise, a bare crib and an (optional) video monitor are all you need. Just a few elements that will make a huge difference in your baby’s sleep. Try it for yourself and watch your baby’s sleep improve!