Having recently arrived back in Australia from overseas, I spent much of last night awake with jet lag. One of the reasons I struggled to get back to sleep was the heat and with weather forecasts predicting temperatures in Australia to continue running high this Summer, it occured to me that I may not be the only one! Heat can cause our sleep to be disrupted as it is taking longer to fall asleep and also due to waking up during the night thirsty or just uncomfortable. It is common not only for adults but for children too. If we as adults are struggling to keep cool at night, what can we do to help the little ones in our care.
When it comes to body temperatures, we need to be hyper vigilant when it comes to babies as the hypothalamus in their brain is still immature and therefore needs help to regulate their core body temperature. This temperature needs to stay consistent but is affected by external factors and put the fact that this system is not fully developed in babies together with their inability to fend for themselves, it is up to us to ensure their temperature stays stable! This blog offers a few suggestions to help you and your little ones acheive a settled nights' sleep despite the heat!
PREPARING FOR SLEEP : The hotter and more dehydrated one is at bedtime, the harder it will be to acheive a proper night's rest. If we get into bed sweating and feeling uncomfortable, it can be tricky to get comfortable or to settle to sleep. To help avoid this, towards the end of the day, try to slow things down. Activities that use physical energy whilst making the body more tired will produce sweat and increase your internal body temperature. It is a good idea to try and do these activities earlier in the day and further from bedtime. The same is true for food. Certain foods such as those which are spicy can cause the body temperature to rise and therefore should not be eaten too close to bedtime. A bath / shower is a good idea just prior to bedtime. Whereas adults can use cool water; children should never be bathed in water that is cooler than lukewarm as this could cause their core body temperature to rise in response. It is important to stay hydrated throughout the day and to continue to drink up until bedtime.
THE SLEEP ENVIRONMENT: If possible, babies and young children should sleep in the coolest room of the house. Heat rises so in the Summer, it may be worth moving them to a lower storey in the house for additional comfort if there is no air conditioning. During the day, it is an idea to ensure that the room is kept dark and cool by closing any blinds and using fans. It is important that air is able to circulate around where your baby is sleeping so removing any padding from cots is helpful. Sleeping in prams in the heat can cause babies to be hot very quickly as there is minimal circulating air and so is something to avoid when the weather is particulalrly warm. Cotton sheets are useful to have on the beds as they will absorb any perspiration or moisture in the air.
DURING THE NIGHT : As a general rule babies need one additional layer of clothing to adults. In extreme heat, allowing a baby to sleep in a vest with a nappy and a vest should suffice and some babies are comfortable in a sleep bag directly over their nappy. If you want to check they are not too cold in the night, the best guide of their temperature is their tummy! Your child may wake up thirsty in the night and that is to be expected. Babies over 6 months can be given additional water and it is worth having something to hand for toddlers. Breastfed babies may require feeding overnight even if they don't usually as breastmilk is 88% water! If you want to have a fan in your child's room, ensure it is not pointed in their direction but rather to cool the room.
Wishing you cool and comfortable nights ahead
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