3/12/12

Some Like It Hot (Sleep, that is)






My children amuse me. I know everyone is amused by their own children. Children are like most people--incredibly quirky. My children are no different, and I find quirks both
fascinating and amusing.

Brayden does not mind being cold. He is bewildered when his friends want to go inside after playing in the snow for two hours. Even as a pre-toddler, he did not want to wear a coat out in the brisk fall weather. He just doesn't mind it.

Kaitlyn does not like to be cold. Unless incredible fun is happening, she is done in the snow after 30 minutes. She especially does not like to have wind blowing on her. Spring is not a fun time due to the wind issues.

McKenna is like Brayden--she does not mind the cold. She will play outside in the snow forever. Brayden is lucky to have her.

That isn't the quirky part. Here comes the quirky part.

Brayden (6 years old) does not like to be cold when he sleeps. He currently sleeps in a sweatshirt, flannel pajama bottoms, and socks. He wears a child-sized snuggie that his grandmother gave him for Christmas. Then he has his sheet, a comforter, a heavy afaghan, his baby quilt I made him, two fleece blankets, and a couple small cotton blankets thrown on top. His room is kept at 70 degrees. Not kidding.

Kaitlyn (4 years old) loves to be cold when she sleeps. She has the coldest bedroom in the house. She currently sleeps in a flimsy nightgown meant for warm summer nights and hates to sleep in socks. She sleeps with a sheet, comforter, and a couple of fleece blankets because I think she must be freezing, not because she wants them. 

McKenna (2 years old) also does not like to be cold when she sleeps. She sleeps in warm pajamas and socks. She has the warmest bedroom in the house. She has more blankets than I can count and she knows if I try to remove some. And she knows which ones I have removed. If she wakes from a nap and had bare arms (because she took off her cardigan because she was "too hot" during playtime), she wakes up crying. 

See? They are quirky. 
I share these quirks to illustrate that some children like to be warm when they sleep and others like to be on the cooler side. ALSO, it takes some observation to know what they each like--it isn't always what you might assume. 

How Do You Know?
I know this is an annoying answer for some people, but for me, I just knew. I could tell Brayden liked to sleep warmer as a baby. When Kaitlyn came along, I quickly figured out she liked to be cooler (and I got many lectures from certain relatives about her lack of socks--she hated socks as a four week old and still hates socks as a four year old and I feel so vindicated as a mother!).

The best advice I can give you is to pay attention. You need to notice patterns. You might need to take notes to see these patterns, or you might be able to track it in your head. What did your child wear to sleep in? What blankets, if any, were involved? What was the temperature in the room?

And with that information, how did your child sleep that night?

What Temperature is Best?
It seems most sleep experts agree somewhere between 65-70 degrees is best (though some go as low as 60 and high as 75). That really is a wide range, though. 60 feels very differently than 75. How do you tell what is best for your individual child? Once again, this is where the power of observation comes into play. You have your range to work with, now experiment and see what works best.

Why is temperature so important?
"Experts agree the temperature of your sleeping area and how comfortable you feel in it affect how well and how long you snooze. Why? “When you go to sleep, your set point for body temperature -- the temperature your brain is trying to achieve -- goes down,” says H. Craig Heller, PhD, professor of biology at Stanford University, who wrote a chapter on temperature and sleep for a medical textbook. “Think of it as the internal thermostat.” If it’s too cold, as in Roy’s case, or too hot, the body struggles to achieve this set point. 
That mild drop in body temperature induces sleep. Generally, Heller says, “if you are in a cooler [rather than too-warm] room, it is easier for that to happen.” But if the room becomes uncomfortably hot or cold, you are more likely to wake up, says Ralph Downey III, PhD, chief of sleep medicine at Loma Linda University..." (source)

Finding the perfect temperature gets tricky with the more people you add to the family.  
I recommend you figure out what the lowest temperature needs to be. So in our family, my husband and Kaitlyn like to sleep in a cooler environment. So the thermostat is set to a cooler temperature for those two. Even in the winter, my husband sleeps with only a sheet and a light blanket. No socks.

Then the rest of us warm sleepers adjust our environment as needed. We all wear warmer PJs and all wear socks in the winter. We all have our layers of blankets. The children have space heaters in their rooms that have a thermostat. 

So in your quest for good sleep in your family, do not underestimate the importance of temperature, pajamas, and blankets. It is a vital element in getting peaceful, continuous sleep. What is perfect for you will not automatically be perfect for anyone else in the home. Work to figure out the ideal for each person and figure out how to achieve that in your home. You will all be sleeping better if you do!

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