Winter months in Fairfield County means spending a lot of time indoors! The lack of sunlight (AKA Vitamin D), freezing temps, snow, and long months…this time of year doesn’t exactly scream, “Let’s get outside!” Also, being in a global pandemic doesn’t help!
Did you know that in some cultures freezing temperatures are the ideal temp for BABIES napping? It might be the key to sleep success!
It’s TRUE! In Scandinavia and Iceland, it is common practice to nap babies outside in the seasons. Even with temperatures dropping well into freezing. Nordic parents do this because it helps their babies take better, longer restorative naps during the day. In fact, this is why we recommend keeping the room your little one is sleeping in at 68-72 degrees and dress them appropriately. The cool temperature allows them to drop their body temperature to get into a nice restorative sleep. It would seem, then, that napping a baby outside, with a baby all bundled up against the freezing temps, is an extreme way to have the cool temps needed for great sleep.
On those cold days, it is SO hard to get outside with your little ones for a stroller ride or even play in the snow, but they need it to get good sleep. If they are cooped up inside all day, they aren’t burning off the energy they need to build sleep pressure. They aren’t getting Vitamin D very much and they are going to fight their bedtime.
Tips for heading outside in the COLD:
- Bundle baby up well if it is cold outside. Do a temperature check by running a hand between shoulder blades to ensure they are cozy warm about 10 minutes after being outside.
- Check babies and toddlers often, especially their head, neck, and extremities. Ensure that they are not sweating due to overdressing or cold due to being underdressed.
- Shield your baby and their stroller from direct sunlight and wind.
- Rub Aquaphor on your little one’s cheeks to prevent windburn if needed.
- DO NOT cover your baby’s entire stroller with a thick or tightly woven blanket – this restricts air circulation and is dangerous.
A prime time to get outside is right after a sleep session, whether that be first thing in the morning or after a nap. Your little one is restored and ready for some stimulation. This will help prepare them for the next sleep session and make it much easier during the bedtime routine.
We always need to help boost Vitamin D, which helps our bodies produce the sleep hormone melatonin! You want to ensure everyone in the home is getting a good amount of Vitamin D in the winter months, as research has linked Vitamin D levels to sleep quality. In fact, several studies associate low levels of Vitamin D in your blood with a higher risk of sleep disturbances, poorer sleep quality, and reduced sleep duration!
If you cannot make it outside, you can always incorporate these foods into your family’s diet: avocado, nuts, seeds, full-fat dairy products, and eggs are nutritious sources of fat that help boost the Vitamin D absorption in our bodies. This will help your little one’s body produce melatonin, which will help them fall asleep quicker and get better restorative sleep sessions.
Let’s talk about the lack of sunlight in the winter months! It can make the days feel so short and the nights come so quick, but this actually works in your favor for your little one’s sleep! Having the room pitch black is ideal for sleep and a bedtime between 6-8 p.m. daily as the prime time for melatonin production is 7 p.m. With the sun setting around 5 p.m. during wintertime, it will be nice and dark by the time 7 p.m. rolls around, which sets you up for sleep success!
Let winter work in your favor for successful sleep sessions. If you can get outside almost every day, incorporate foods high in Vitamin D as back up, keep the cool temperature of 68-72 degrees F in your home, and a solid bedtime between 6-8 p.m., great sleep will be in your little one’s future! Try and enjoy the cold weather while it’s here!
Leah Nolan is a certified infant and toddler sleep consultant for The Sleepyhead Coach. She resides in Fairfield County, CT with her son and daughter (2.5 years and 9 months old). When she’s helping families with their sleep, she enjoys being out in nature with her kids, riding horses, and spending time with her family. Follow her at @thesleepyheadcoach_leah.