The final months of the year (and the first few of the next year) bring with them some of the best things. Thanksgiving, Christmas, changing leaves and, depending on where you live, cold weather. While for many, this is a great excuse to get cozy for the holidays, cold nights can prove to be a hindrance for children’s sleeping habits.
Around these cooler months, moms are usually pros at keeping their young ones bundled in layers and layers of socks, jackets, and hats. What many don’t immediately think about is how the cold affects sleep, as well.
Melatonin & REM
Melatonin is the hormone that regulates your sleep cycle. It is produced by the pineal gland within the brain, with production being determined by your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm, or sleep cycle, is typically from early evening to early morning, with more melatonin being released as night nears and tapering as the sun rises.
As nights grow longer and colder during the winter, our melatonin levels are negatively impacted, which is particularly detrimental for children’s sleeping habits. When melatonin is released in the evening, our core body temperature naturally drops. This body’s natural drop in temperature, coupled with dropping temperatures outside, can be cause for a disruptive night’s sleep. Children are prone to waking up often and/or early in the morning as a result of an uncomfortable sleeping temperature.
Additionally, cold weather has been known to reduce stages of REM. REM (rapid eye movement) is the stage of sleep responsible for relaxing the brain and restoring important mental functions. Children are already more susceptible to catching a variety of bugs and colds, so a comfortable sleeping temperature is imperative to ensuring their health when they’re at their most vulnerable.
Take these steps to prevent cold nights from affecting your child’s sleep:
- Warm and Clean– A warm bath or shower before bed not only relaxes and soothes muscles, but encourages body warmth that maintains as bedtime approaches.
- Layers– Giving your little one multiple warm layers to sleep in can help them stay warm throughout the night. Long sleeve shirts, wool pajama pants, and socks all can help them stay as cozy as they are sleepy.
- Blankets– Keep plenty of blankets or comforters nearby for easy access during the night. Often times, exposed feet poking out from the covers are among the most susceptible to colder temperatures.
- Air Temperature– Perhaps the easiest and most obvious way to regulate temperature in your child’s bedroom is with the thermostat. This allows you to accurately set a temperature either for different times of the night or depending on the existing temperature of the room. The recommended sleeping temperature for a bedroom is between 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Warm Milk– Thought mostly of as an old wife’s tale, drinking warm milk can help benefit children’s sleeping habits. There are not many sleep-inducing ingredients in milk; however amino acid L-tryptophan raises levels of melatonin and serotonin, which will help coax your child to bed. Psychologically, this can also play a role in sleep induction by making your little one feel comforted, like they were fed as an infant.
Dr. Shukla and his team cater to the needs of parents and children alike. It is our passion to give New York residents and out-of-towners the accessibility of a pediatric specialist when other doctors fail to work with patients outside of normal working hours.
To schedule an appointment for children, contact our Asthma, Allergy and Sleep Center of New York.