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What Controls Sleep

Knowing what controls our own sleep and our baby’s sleep is a good place to start when thinking about creating healthy sleep habits for our children and also ourselves.

What’s the answer: our sleep drive, also known as sleep pressure ( basically the longer we are awake the more tired we are ) and our body clock which drives our circadian rhythms and tells our bodies when we should be sleeping.

Our circadian rhythms follow a 24-hour clock and helps to control your sleep-wake cycles, body temperature, hormone release and metabolism . These are influenced by light and darkness as well as other environmental factors.

In the case of sleep deprivation even if you haven’t slept well, morning light helps ensure that you will be more alert during the day than you are at night.

On the other hand, the absence of light at night helps your body wind down. When it is dark, your brain interprets this as a signal to start producing melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy .

When our bodies are in sync with the outside world our melatonin levels are low when we wake up in the morning. They rise as the day goes on and reach its peak around 3 pm which can make us feel sleepy. It then starts to drop, making us feel like we get a second wind and then rises again in the evening so we feel tired for bedtime. There is another peak at 3 am after which the levels of melatonin drop back down so we are ready to start the day.

It can take babies 12 weeks, or sometimes more, to develop mature circadian rhythms. This can offer an explanation as to why their sleep patterns can be all over the place.

At Mini Sleeps we don’t “sleep train“ babies younger than 6 months but there are things you can do to help your baby develop their circadian rhythm. These are as follows:

  • During awake times, try to make sure your baby gets exposure to lots of daylight. This can be outdoors ( make sure indirect sunlight) or indoors ( open the curtains up when waking your baby in the morning and from naps). Don’t put pressure on yourself to be outdoors daily or for long periods of time, 15-20 minutes will suffice but fresh air and daylight will be good for you as well.

  • Enjoy doing activities with your baby in-between naps. Sing, play, whatever you like.

  • Try to establish a regular feeding pattern in the day and try to feed your baby in a space with lots of daylight, if possible. Very small babies may fall asleep whilst feeding and that is okay.

  • During the day, keep household noises to their normal level.

  • Keep activity levels low at night and keep the lights dim.

  • Try to keep a quiet and calm environment for any night feeds and nappy changes. If using a nightlight for feeds or nappy changes try to use red or amber ( not blue). Contrary to belief you can give your baby eye contact when doing night feeds. Enjoy those opportunities to bond.

⭐️Most importantly enjoy giving your baby lots of cuddles as they aren’t babies forever⭐️

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