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What Is Sleep Hygiene?

Updated: Nov 5, 2023

What is it, why it really matters and how to implement habits that improve your baby's sleep!


Sleep Hygiene is a bit of a buzz word in Sleep Consultant world and for very good reason! Sleep Hygiene helps set your baby up for better, longer sleep and is one of the easiest things to implement as a parent.


What do we see as a result or poor sleep hygiene?
  • Difficulties falling asleep

  • Frequent waking or disturbances

  • Early waking

  • Late or early sleep phases – where the body clock is offset

  • Inconsistent quality and quantity

  • Difficulties with wakefulness through the day


Why sleep hygiene should matter to you!

There is an abundance of peer-reviewed research that supports the implementation of good sleep hygiene practice. Healthy sleep is essential for attention, behaviour, learning, memory making and overall physical and mental health.


How do we practice good sleep hygiene?

Well this can look different depending on the age/stage of your baby, but there are 2 key areas that it covers; habits and environment! So let’s chat environment first!


Wherever your little one is sleeping, whether it’s your bedroom or their own, make sure the environment is pleasant and consistent.


How do we practice good sleep hygiene?


Make sure the room is 80 – 100% dark! During the day we don’t want to be able to read a book in their room. Melatonin can only be produced in darkness so work with your little one’s biology here, it is a game changer!


Temperature Matters


While 18 – 22 degrees is the ideal sleeping temperature, it’s not always possible to achieve! This is where layering your baby appropriately becomes even more important! Sleeping bags like Ergopouch which are TOG-rated, helping ensure your little one is comfortably dressed for the room temperature! Please don’t use heaters – these are a fire hazard – it is far more effective to layer your little one. Another hot tip: Make sure the sleepwear is a natural fabric like 100% cotton! Synthetic fabrics will overheat or overcool therefore impacting sleep quality.


Environmental Sounds

A calm, consistent environment is essential! For the first year (and even longer) we absolutely recommend the safe use of White Noise. White noise turns on the calming reflex and helps your little one move between sleep cycles more easily. It also drowns out a lot of external environmental noise too! Safe and effective use is placing the white noise machine across the room (about 2 metres away). Download a free dB reader App on your phone, place it in the cot where baby sleep and adjust the volume so it is no louder than 65dB, though we generally recommend 50dB.


Low-Stimulation

Be mindful of how much fun stuff is on display in the bedroom! Baby mobiles and canopies, while super cute can distract some babies from sleep. Some can also be safety risks so be aware of what is in reach for your little one!


Bedding


Make sure whatever baby is wearing or sleeping with is a natural fabric. Sheets need to firmly fit the mattress and be kept clean! Always check the condition of the cot to ensure it is mould free. Mattresses should be replaced if there are any dips. Avoid using a second-hand mattress too.

Let's chat sleep habits!

A regular sleep schedule helps to set your baby’s circadian rhythm, helping them move between wakefulness and sleepiness with more predictability and therefore settling to sleep much easier.

  • Keep a regular morning and evening sleep time.

  • Naps need to be balanced across the day, so it supports rather than interferes with overnight sleep. Check out our Free Feed & Sleep Routines Guide!

  • Create consistent bed/naptime wind-down routines – avoid overstimulating prior to sleep! Wind-downs might look like; closing the curtains, putting on a sleeping bag after a nappy change, offering a feed, reading a book and singing a song! These are all lovely sleep cues that support the settling of sleep. We generally recommend between 10 – 20 minutes before popping baby down to sleep, though you might find you need to tweak this to suit your family.

  • Plenty of natural light and activity through the day also helps to set your little one up for sleep success. Sunshine will boost serotonin levels, meaning there is more to convert into melatonin overnight!

  • Understand your baby’s sleep cues, from around 3-months-old your baby will begin to develop signs they are getting ready for sleep. Some babies demonstrate very clear signs, while others are a little subtler.


Good sleep hygiene for babies ages 1 - 4 months:


  • We can respect our baby’s need for sleep by working our schedule’s around them! Remember this is not a long-term thing and there are naps that we can do on the go.

  • Around 3 – 4 months you can begin to anticipate when your baby will need sleep, awake times and tired signs are a great place to start to ensure you avoid an overtired baby

  • Learning your baby’s tired cues means you can begin soothing and settling for sleep through your wind-downs

  • Always respond to your baby when they reach an overtired state, they need all the help they can get by this point

  • Do whatever it takes to calm and settle your baby to sleep, don’t worry about spoiling or creating bad habits – it’s not a thing

  • Use Dr Harvey Karp’s 5 S’s for soothing – this one is worth researching


Good sleep hygiene for babies ages 5 - 12 months:

  • Follow age appropriate routines that work with the body’s natural rhythms e.g. natural sleep windows

  • Where possible, stick to a fairly consistent schedule! Take into account the timing and lengths of naps needed for balanced sleep across the day

  • Keep consistent in how you settle your little one to sleep, lovely consistent wind-down routines are goals

  • Aim for 0 – 2 overnight feeds, if you’re finding there are more feeds than this, we recommend getting in touch


Working with your baby’s rhythms means we see less fussing, crying and stress, while also seeing longer sleep, calmer settles and many more smiles!


If you find these suggestions have little impact on your baby’s sleep, please reach out to your GP or Paediatrician to ensure there are no underlying medical conditions that need to be supported.


Don't forget to check out our Sleep Guides for a DIY option!

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