blog post cover image baby and child sleep

How does your baby know night from day?

You might have heard of circadian rhythms, so how do you set a good rhythm up to encourage a good nights sleep?

Emma, our Holistic Sleep Coach explains.

What is your circadian rhythm and why is it this important when it comes to sleep?

There is a part of your brain called the SCN, this controls our circadian rhythm and helps determine our sleep patterns, it also controls the production of our sleepy hormone, melatonin.  When there is less light i.e at night time the SCN sends a signal to the brain to make melatonin to make us feel sleepy.

As well as light there are other environmental influences which affect our circadian rhythm such as noise, habits and temperature.

How to support your baby’s circadian rhythm

These are simple lifestyle things we can control that will help influence our rhythms. Follow these tips to keep your rhythms regular:

1) LIGHT Light is a major influencer on our circadian rhythm. Therefore the best way to regulate it is through exposure to plenty of natural daylight, even if it’s not sunny outside.

Daytime Getting outside in the morning will help set your circadian rhythm for the day, even placing a baby in their baby bouncer or on their blanket next to the window or patio doors will help.

Nightime Ensure your baby or child doesn’t watch tv or have exposure to any screens including less obvious ones such as Nightlights and light projectors which emit blue light. Whist these items have been made for children bluelight suppresses melatonin production and therefore can stop that natural process of helping a child feel sleepy. If children are frightened of the dark, the best option is to use a redlight nightlight, as this will not inhibit melatonin production.

2) NOISE Because noise is generally linked to increased social activity it therefore associated with daytime. It is helpful and expected to have a quiet room at night to help our circadian rhythm and assist our children to fall asleep. Although most of us are tempted to tip toe around our babies when they are sleeping in the day, it is ok for them to sleep in bustle of everyday life, otherwise there is a chance they may become sensitised to the noise and find it hard to sleep later on.

3) TEMPERATURE Our core body temperature will fluctuate throughout the day, the warmest being in the early evening and the coldest in the early hours of the morning.  This can result in a hot child (especially if they have a bath before bed) who can’t settle to sleep due to being warm.  A drop of the core body temperature is needed to trigger sleep. Extremes of temperature can trigger a wake but so when you go to bed it might be worth popping some socks on them and ensuring they are dressed appropriately so they don’t wake cold in the early hours.

4) HABITS & BEHAVIOURS The activities we do in the daytime can have a huge impact on our rhythms.   If these habits are regular and consistent, they can have a positive reinforcing affect but if they are sporadic and irregular they can make for an unsettled and confusing rhythm.  For example if we eat at the same time every day our body clock at organ and cellular level can trigger hunger at these predictable times, as this has an impact on our circadian rhythm.  We aren’t saying to feed tiny babies milk feeds at set times but for older ones on solid meals. 

If you need sleep support. Please register your interest by emailing us at info@the-gentle-touch.com.  We will soon be launching our new 1-1 sleep consultation service and group workshops. We also need case studies at all ages (up to 10yrs) and some reduced cost consultations for training purposes are available.