Good sleep starts with the right sleep environment

As parents we often spend a lot of time planning on what our ideal nursery will look like according to our hopes and dreams for a positive and pleasant environment for our child. There is no shortage of beautiful nursery photos online or stylized crib photos in flyers. But how much of this inspiration actually works in your favor when it comes to sleep? After all, sleep is one of the most important aspects of development and a room that has been set up with sleep science in mind can be rewarding in so many ways.

Creating a Good Sleep Environment

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Let’s go back to caveman days. Humans slept in dark, cool, quiet caves, secure from the threat of wild animals. This instinctual environmental set up still plays a significant role in signaling sleep to our bodies. Sleeping in dark, cool environments has shown to promote better sleep, as the absence of light and the cooler temperature cues our brain to boost melatonin production. Babies are no different, so keeping these influences in mind when setting up their sleep environment is key.


The room temperature should be about 19-20C / 68-70F, and the room, dark. This attention to temperature also helps decrease the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) as overheating is one of the risk factors. Make sure to dress baby appropriately, wearing one additional layer than you may typically wear. A sleeper and light sleep sack work in this temperature. If you can’t get the room that cool, try using a fan and dressing in lighter, short sleeved clothing.


Investing in some good black out shades and curtains is so important for sleep. The room should be dark to the point where you can’t see your hand. Not only does darkness cue melatonin production, but it also eliminates the distractions upon which the baby would otherwise fixate, instead of falling asleep. Standing in a crib is a lot less fun when you can’t see anything!

White Noise

White Noise for newborns is essential as it mimics the sounds in the womb, which are comforting and settling to a baby. Older babies and toddlers also benefit from white noise as it helps to mask other noises in the house or outside, and helps them to focus on sleeping. Natural or non-looping white noise is best for the brain. When we listen to looping sounds, even if we can’t detect the loop, our brain can become attached to where it stops and starts, which can cause awakenings. Also, the pitch of the white noise is important. Higher pitch white noise tells our brains to stay alert and awake, whereas lower pitch white noise relaxes us and aids in sleep. Think of the sound when in an airplane, and make sure your white noise machine’s pitch can be adjusted.

We want the room to be associated with sleep, so try and keep playing and other activities to other parts of the house. Setting up and maintaining the proper sleep environment is key to making sure your child has the opportunity to get the best quality sleep possible. When you’ve got the physical environment nailed down, it’ll not only help improve sleep but also let you focus on other things that may be impacting your child’s sleep.

Safe Sleep

A critical component to a good sleep environment is following the safe sleep guidelines for prevention of SIDS. For example, babies 12 months and under should sleep in cribs free of blankets, bumpers, toys and, generally be empty with a tightly fitted sheet.

To read the full guidance, you can visit: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/A-Parents-Guide-to-Safe-Sleep.aspx

Alison Macklin is a Child Sleep Consultant, based in Toronto, Canada. She studied Psychology and Sociology at the University of Toronto and took an interest in child development. She was certified by the Family Sleep Institute, one of the most comprehensive programs available for pediatric sleep. Alison, like many of her clients, is a mom who is very familiar with how it feels to have a child not sleeping properly, and worried about their well-being. Her passion has become helping families learn how to help their children sleep better and develop those critical skills in becoming well-rested. When working together, Alison will give guidance on how to establish healthy and safe sleep practices based on science, to get your child the rest they need. She works closely with you to develop a customized sleep solution, all while taking into consideration the unique history and temperament of your child, resulting in a plan that you can feel comfortable and confident in. Alison is there by your side, through every step of the process, giving you full support and answering all of your sleep questions. Taking the health and well-being of you and your child to heart, she is with you through any bump in the road that comes up - as they always do! She has the support of her team at Good Night Sleep Site, who have been supporting families for over 12 years, and will find solutions that will work for your family. In her spare time she loves going to the Toronto Library mom & baby events, open yoga at Shops at Don Mills, going for bike rides along the Lakeshore, and visiting the Toronto Zoo with her daughter and husband.
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