Is your little one struggling to fall asleep with out you? Are they waking multiple times a night? or sleeping less than 40 minutes at a time?
Did you know that your child has biological sleep needs?
Our biological sleep needs are the reason that rocking and feeding to sleep (among other things) stop working after newborn. These needs follow on as to how we as adults and babies fall asleep. Below is some common reasons to keep in mind and during your sleep journey.
Circadian rhythms are best described as changes that occur to our bodies in a 24 hour cycle. These rhythms are affected by food, light, sleep and social interactions. These are called Zeitgebers (which are in a sense cues to the body) these help tell the body when it’s time for food, sleep etc. The Zeitgebers teach our bodies the differences between night feeds and using dim lights etc VS when its day and there is light, which brings with it social interactions.
Our circadian rhythms are controlled by the cortisol and melatonin hormones. The level of hormones naturally fluctuate throughout the 24 hour cycle. Cortisol is considered the ‘awake’ hormone VS melatonin which is the hormone responsible for helping us fall asleep.
As the circadian rhythm matures, things like having poor routines and sleep environments etc will have an negative effect on our sleep patterns . This is why we encourage positive sleep and awake rhythms throughout the day and night with the help on some sleep hygiene to encourage our cortisol and melatonin to be working when it is needed and help us know when it is day and night.
Melatonin is a hormone produced from our Pineal gland, this hormone is responsible for how we sleep. Babies at birth have melatonin produced from their mothers which starts to wear off around 3 weeks. This is when we see a baby start to become more alert and awake.
At around 8 weeks of age babies are able to start to produce melatonin themselves. This is when it is important for a parent to start healthy sleep hygiene habits like having a dark sleep environment from 3 weeks of age.
Having a dark sleep environment allows the body to produce melatonin and therefore encourage sleep. This is because a dark environment is needed for the body to turn serotonin (hormone produced by light) into melatonin as light blocks melatonin production.
*Newborns can sleep in the light for the first 3 weeks without it impacting on their melatonin levels.
Sleep hygiene and environment.
As you read above there are many biological factors that affect how a child sleeps. Sleep hygiene and the child’s sleep environment are important factors that have an ongoing effect on the child’s biological sleep needs. Sleep hygiene helps prevent a child from having ongoing disrupted sleep and behavioral problems. What affects sleep hygiene is:
Parents play an important role in shaping a child’s sleep hygiene. They can shape a child’s natural sleep rhythms and patterns into healthy sleep habits. Having healthy sleep habits prevent less crying in the long run. Sleep habits have an ongoing effect on a child’s behavior. Sleep environment is an environment in which a child falls asleep.
Sleep environment as mentioned before has an affect on a child’s circadian rhythms and melatonin production. Ways to improve a child’s sleep environment include:
Further SIDS guidelines please click the link https://rednose.com.au/section/education