Julia Youll, Public Health Practitioner at Nightingale
As new parents, sleep is a rare and cherished commodity. It may seem like an uphill battle now, but it’s important to know there are things you can do to get more rest. And, what better time to try than World Sleep Day (Friday 19th March)?
Sleep is essential for improving health and well-being, and the theme of this year’s event – “regular sleep, healthy future”– will resonate with families, in particular.
Sleep is essential for improving health and wellbeing, and the theme of this year’s event – “regular sleep, healthy future”– will resonate with families, in particular.
The science of newborn sleep
Babies sleep in utero, but they’re not born with sleep association or any concept of day and night. They only start to produce the sleep hormone melatonin around 12 weeks of age, which explains why they wake up frequently for feeds before then. The circadian rhythm (the body’s natural internal sleep regulation) also takes a while to develop but once it does, infants sleep longer at night, meaning you can squeeze in a few more precious hours of rest.
Various stages in a baby’s development impact their sleep performance, so it’s important to remain flexible with a newly established routine. Common ages where we see sleep regression are 4 months and 8/9 months, when separation anxiety kicks in. Teething can also disrupt sleep because of the discomfort and distress it causes, making your little one more restless than normal. Toddlers, meanwhile, are learning lots of new things, which is exciting as well as overwhelming, so they may start to devise strategies to keep you in the room longer for comfort before they nod off.