Winter, with its shorter days, colder temperatures, and drier air, presents unique challenges that can impact the sleep routines of babies and toddlers. As a gentle sleep consultant with Sweet Dreamers Sleep Consulting and a baby sleep expert in Australia, one of the joys of my work is helping families navigate the various factors that can influence their children's sleep patterns. Let’s discuss how these seasonal changes can impact your little one's sleep and explore strategies to maintain healthy sleep habits during the winter months.

the influence of daylight on sleep patterns

One of the most significant ways winter can disrupt sleep routines is by effecting daylight exposure. Natural light plays a crucial role in regulating our internal body clocks, also known as the circadian rhythm. During the winter months, days are shorter, and the sunlight is less intense compared to the brighter, longer days of summer.

For babies and toddlers whose circadian rhythm is still developing, this change can lead to confusion in their sleep-wake cycles. Less exposure to natural light during the day may result in difficulty distinguishing between day and night, potentially disrupting naps and night-time sleep patterns.

strategies to maintain healthy sleep habits

maximise daylight exposure: Make a conscious effort to expose your child to natural light during the day. Take morning walks or play outside when the sun is out. This helps reinforce their circadian rhythm and signals that daytime is for activity, and night-time is for sleep.

create a sleep-inducing environment: Before naptime, dim the lights and reduce exposure to screens emitting blue light, such as TVs and tablets. Blue light can suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. Make sure the sleep environment is as dark as possible to support the natural melatonin production process. Using blackout curtains or window coverings to ensure minimal light within the sleep environment is ideal.

consistent bedtime routine: Establishing a consistent bedtime routine signals to your child that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. This can include activities like bath time, reading a book, and gentle cuddling, all in a calm and soothing environment.

Additionally, include the nourish bath and body oil in the bedtime routine. It can be used as a calming essential oil during a bath and as a body massage oil for the baby.It contains active botanicals such as jojoba oil, chamomile and more to relax the body and soothe the skin.

This is particularly beneficial during winter as the cold weather is drying as it is low humidity and the addition of heaters in the home further dries the air, especially in closed-off bedrooms.

impact of colder temperatures on comfort

The cold temperatures can affect your baby or toddler's comfort during sleep. Babies are more sensitive to temperature changes than adults, and being too cold or warm can disrupt their sleep

Ensuring the sleep environment is comfortably cool but not cold is essential. Use layers of clothing or sleep sacks to keep your baby warm without overheating. Opt for breathable fabrics such as cotton, and monitor room temperature to ensure it stays within the recommended range of 18-22°C.

addressing dry air and potential congestion

Indoor heating in winter can cause dry air, leading to congestion and discomfort for babies and toddlers, especially those with respiratory issues. Dry nasal passages can make breathing uncomfortable and disrupt sleep.

To combat this:

use a humidifier: Adding moisture to the air with a humidifier can help alleviate dryness and congestion. Opt for cool mist humidifiers, which are safer around children, and clean them regularly to prevent mould and bacteria build-up.

oil heaters: Swap out traditional heaters for oil heaters as these are not as drying as they don’t use “air-blowing” to move warmth around the room.

nasal saline drops: For babies with nasal congestion, saline drops can help clear nasal passages before sleep. This can make breathing easier and promote better sleep quality.

Additionally, offering a dummy to encourage more nose breathing can help to reduce nasal congestion. The pacifier is a great option as it's made with an ergonomic teat shape to ensure the right fit in every baby’s mouth, support proper dental development, and the shield shape offers optimal clearance of babies, nasal passages and a comfortable fit.

maintaining consistency amidst seasonal changes

During winter, it's essential to maintain consistency in your child's sleep routines as much as possible. Consistency provides security and predictability, which are crucial for healthy sleep habits. While it's natural for routines to adapt slightly to accommodate seasonal changes, keep key elements of your child’s sleep schedule,such as bedtime and nap times, consistent.

in conclusion

Winter brings unique challenges for a baby or toddlers sleep, from shorter daylight hours affecting circadian rhythms to colder temperatures and drier air impacting comfort and congestion. As a gentle sleep consultant, my aim is to empower families with knowledge and strategies to navigate these challenges effectively.

By utilising the wonderful products, maximising daylight exposure, creating a comfortable sleep environment, and addressing potential issues like dry air and congestion, you can better help support your child’s sleep during the winter months.

Remember, consistency and patience are key as you work to maintain healthy sleep habits that support your child’s growth and development year-round.

Wishing your little one Sweet Dreams.

Written By: Carlene Rotblat from Sweet Dreamers Sleep Consulting

Carlene is a Certified Gentle Baby and Toddler Sleep Consultant, AHPRA registered Nurse and mum with over 12 years of experience in the field. As a gentle sleep consultant, Carlene focuses on responsive and holistic approaches to sleep without the use of controlled crying or cry-it-out. She provides consultations and personalised sleep plans to families all across Australia and can assist children from 0 to 6 years of age. Carlene also developed Baby Sleep Pods, a universal pram cover designed to support sleep on the go and lifestyle flexibility.

Carlene (Owner/Director/Head Sleep Consultant) works alongside Sophie, another gentle sleep consultant at Sweet Dreamers Sleep Consulting. Together, they hope to help as many families as they can get the sleep they need, in a gentle way that fosters children’s needs for support and reassurance, whilst helping them to feel happy and confident to have better quality, independent sleep. You can find Sweet Dreamers Sleep Consulting at or on Instagram @sweetdreamerssleepconsulting

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