Baby Sleep and Temperature

The son this website was inspired by is a MUCH better sleeper than when he was a baby, but he will probably never be a perfect sleeper and I have grown to just accept that (maybe I will have to drag him out of bed as a teenager — we’ll see). My son is sensitive to schedule and routine changes and is, in general, a light sleeper. Last week he started to have a few night-wakings every night for 3 nights, which nowadays is unusual. When he was 4 months old it was common, expected and highly frustrating. At 3, it is no less frustrating and probably more tiring since I’m no longer used to it.

It was my own article last week that helped me figure out what had changed. I wrote my article about baby temperament and sensitivity, and it reminded me just how sensitive he is/was to temperature. And, it was 2-3 nights prior that we thought it was very cold at night and we put thermals on underneath his fleece footed PJ’s. Now that he’s older, he keeps the sheet and blanket on him a lot better, so he was getting too hot those few nights! Boy was I happy to figure it out! You’d think he would say “Mommy I’m too hot”, but I don’t think he realized why he was waking up. Unfortunately, he still has a bad night here and there (nightmares, insomnia, etc. — which I hope to write about in the future), but at least he doesn’t get up most nights and not numerous times EACH night like last week!

So, I did some homework so I could pass on the ideal temperature your baby or toddler’s room should be when he sleeps, so hopefully my experience again will help others.

It is very important that you not overheat your newborn when she sleeps as it increases the risk of SIDS. It has also been shown that using a fan can decrease the risk of SIDS by 72%.

Our internal body clock controls our body temperature and when our temperature is high, like during the day, our bodies are more awake. We all have a dip in body temperature in the afternoon and we feel sleepy (Ferber calls this the “afternoon dip”). At night, when the sun goes down, our body temperature starts to drop and Melatonin (a hormone) is released in our bodies inducing sleep. Our temperature is lowest at night until around 4 a.m. our bodies start to prepare to wake up. Many parents complain about their baby’s sleep in the early morning hours. It’s the lightest sleep of the night.

I found a few sites that say the ideal room temperature is between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (or 18.3 to 21.1 Celsius), but none of the sites seemed like THE authority on that, so I’d use that as a starting point, but I’m going to venture to guess that the ideal temperature for your family will vary a little, depending on you (and your baby) and how many blankets you use. Keep in mind that your child won’t learn to keep a cover on all night until past 18-24 months. My youngest, we put on a onesie t-shirt, thermal pajamas and then fleece pajamas over those this winter. For my eldest, we are now putting on just Fleece footed pajamas and he has a sheet and comforter on. And, we’re keeping our thermostat at 68 degrees at night.

I didn’t find any scientific research about this, but if our body temperature being higher in the day keeps us awake, I would venture to guess that my son was waking up partially because his body temperature was too high as much as it was because he may or may not have been uncomfortable. The moral of the story is to keep the kids warm, but not too warm, and not too cold, either, yet another parenting magic trick.

At what temperature do you keep your thermostat?