How to Create a Conducive Sleep Environment for Your Baby

Want to help your baby sleep in longer stretches? In this article, let’s talk about how to create the right environment to help your little one do just that.

How to Create a Conducive Sleep Environment for Your Baby

I know it’s been a while, but think about the last time you had a good night’s sleep. I doubt you heard loud noises outside the windows or yanked and pulled on your blankets just to stay warm. Everything seemed just right to invite a good night of sleep.

The same is true for your baby. It might seem like he can sleep in loud, bright places, like in a room of people chattering or in a busy, crowded mall. But if I had to guess, he was probably held in someone’s arms or lying snug in the stroller as you shopped.

When your arms are no longer an option and a stroller is too unrealistic to rely on, the right environment can help him sleep through the night. Think of the optimal sleep environment as giving him a leg up toward better sleep. Why make sleep harder with difficult sleeping arrangements when you can make simple changes to help him doze off easily?

So, what can you do to create an environment conducive to sleep? Here are a few suggestions:

Have your baby sleep in a separate room

If you’re preparing for sleep training, you might find it difficult to share a room during the process. Despite any ninja moves you might try as you stealthily try to sneak out, he’s bound to sense that you’re there and get upset.

If you’ve been sharing a room, consider having a separate one for him, whether temporarily or permanently.

Let’s say you’re in a one-bedroom like I was with my eldest and have no plans to move to a two-bedroom anytime soon. Set up a temporary sleeping arrangement elsewhere for yourself during sleep training (for instance, I set up an air mattress in the living room). That way, you can close the door and allow him to sleep on his own.

If you have a separate bedroom for him but have been sharing a room during the newborn stage, consider moving him to his room moving forward. This can help him adjust to his new sleeping arrangement at the same time he’s learning to self soothe.

For instance, when my twins were born, they slept in bassinets in our room for the first few months even though we had a two-bedroom. But during sleep training, we placed them in their cribs in their room.

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Hang darkening curtains

Help your baby sleep longer by hanging darkening curtains in the room he usually sleeps in. With the lights blocked from the room, he’ll have one less challenge to contend with.

Darkening curtains can also help him sleep longer in the mornings when the sun rises earlier than you’d like to be up for the day. They can also block any lingering sunlight should the sun still be up at his bedtime. For instance, sunlight might still peek through at 6:30pm or 7pm throughout the year. Darkening curtains will help block the sunlight so he feels like it’s time to sleep for the night.

You can find darkening curtains online or at your local home décor shop. Look for ones that specifically block outdoor light and darken the room.

Use a white noise machine

White noise is a continuous, regular sound that helps muffle sounds your baby might hear while he’s asleep. Without white noise, the regular noises you make around the house can startle him awake. For instance, a silent home might make it more likely for him to wake up if you happen to close a cupboard, wash the dishes, or open a door.

You can create white noise with a white noise machine, an app on your phone, a looped audio file of static sound, or a fan or heater. White noise isn’t about being so loud as to drown out all other sounds. For instance, playing a loud song isn’t white noise. Instead, white noise is a continuous, calming sound that can muffle startling noises.

Set the right temperature

Another factor in creating a sleepy environment is the temperature of the room. A room too hot or too cold can become an obstacle to good sleep.

The ideal temperature in your baby’s room is between 68–72° F. Think about whether your baby feels too warm or cold in his room. Perhaps you’ve layered him with too many clothes, or not enough.

Consider putting him in a sleep sack in cold weather (don’t use blankets as they aren’t safe at this stage). Sleep sacks also come in different materials and weights, so you can use one made of thick wool for the cold season and a light cotton one when it’s warmer.

Expert tip

A good rule of thumb is to dress your baby in the same number of layers you have, plus one more. If you’re wearing a t-shirt and pants, dress him in a onesie and pants as well as a long-sleeve pajama.

Frequently asked questions

Is there a quick, even temporary, alternative to darkening curtains?

Sometimes you don’t have the time, budget, or inclination to install darkening curtains right when you need them. In that case, you can create a makeshift “curtain” by taping temporary black trash bags over your windows (yup, they really work). Curtains are more convenient, aesthetically pleasing, and suitable for the long-term, but black trash bags are another option for a quick fix that works just as well.

I plan to have my baby share the room with an older sibling. What should I do if I plan to sleep train?

If your baby will share a room with a sibling in the long term, move your older child to a temporary sleeping arrangement during sleep training and the baby to the kids’ room. Then, once your baby has gotten the hang of sleeping through the night, your older child can rejoin him in the same room.

The bottom line

So much of how your baby sleeps depends on having the right environment. From darkening curtains to white noise, you can give him the best chance to fall and stay asleep.

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5 Mistakes That Keep Your Baby from Self Soothing

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