Better Sleep for You and Baby (Tonight!)
What You Can Do
Given that your infant is healthy, there are a number of steps that you can take on your own to help him or her sleep better. Sleep patterns result from both internal (such as circadian rhythms and hunger) and environmental cues. While your baby’s circadian rhythms are maturing, you have some control over the external cues.
According to an article published in Behavior Therapist, your baby is gradually coming to anticipate and align himself with your behavior, through a process called “entrainment.” The process includes alignment with your family’s sleep-wake cycles. The authors state that using white noise and scheduled bedtimes often reduces infant and childhood sleep disturbances.
Here’s how you can employ an entrainment process to help your child sleep better:
- Light: We become sleepy or wakeful partially in response to sunlight, so medical experts recommend that individuals who have trouble falling asleep at night get plenty of natural morning sunlight. Afternoon sunlight also may be helpful. Open the curtains in the morning, raise the blinds, or take a walk in the sun.At the same time, soften the lights in the evening to imitate the natural rhythm of sunlight. (A number of lighting companies also sell lights that dim and brighten on special timers.) Be especially careful to avoid harsh artificial light in the evenings.
- Activity: Babies who are more active during the day sleep better, so be sure your baby gets daily exercise by providing periods of physical play. Getting out of the house and exposing baby to new places and people is also stimulating. In the evening, though, reduce activity and stimulation for the last couple of hours before bedtime to allow the baby to settle down and get ready for sleep. (Ask Uncle Fred to save the “flying baby” game for the middle of the day.)Tone down the activity during night feedings, too, and speak in a hushed voice. Don’t turn on the television, which provides both stimulating noise and harsh light. My son came to expect lively conversation and stories during his nocturnal feedings until I realized that he was having too much fun to go back to sleep!
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