Why is the correct room temperature so important for your infant’s sleep?

Thermoregulation is both a core temperature, measured on the surface of the skin and a shell temperature, a natural process that makes sure our bodies stay at a healthy internal temperature.

Normal core temperature is around 37 degrees Celcius and outside of this temperature, the body has health risks. Thermoregulation helps us bring our body back to a healthy internal temperature. Isaac Newton (The Law of Physics) discovered that heat can never be created or lost, it can only be exchanged. Our skin is the main heat exchanger of the body (i.e. sweating) which is determined by the environment as well as core temperature. So shell temperature is ruled by the body’s need to exchange temperature.

When core body temperature drops naturally, that’s when sleep should occur. When your core temperature drops your shell temperature rises as the heat exchange takes place. Certain parts of our body, such as hands and feet, get warmer before the onset of sleep.

Heating can make it harder for the body to regulate correctly and therefore can affect sleep quality. There is evidence that warming the body before sleep i.e. a bath, can increase melatonin levels and improve sleep continuity.

An important reminder is that a flat, firm waterproof covered mattress in a cot reduces the risk of SIDS. Babies should be free to move at least their arms and hands outside of the bedding with a room temperature of 15 to 19 degrees. Babies can’t just throw back the bedding so we must be careful about what bedding we use and consider the room temperature at bedtime and any changes in room temperature throughout the night. At around 4 am the body’s core temperature naturally dips. These rises and falls of temperature are part of our natural circadian rhythm. As babies simply can’t tell us if they are hot or cold we are responsible for being attentive to each sleep situation.

In Neonates, thermoregulation is controlled throughout both Rapid Eye Movement sleep and Non REM sleep.

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If you have concerns around your infants sleep quality, what your infant should wear or the correct sleep ‘architecture’ for a specific age, contact Suzy who will be happy to advise.