Friday, April 15, 2011

The Sun and Sleep

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First of all, this post is not a "scientific post" on the sun and sleep, but if you want that, I have written one found here: Regulatory Sleep Systems.

This post is a lot more simple than that one (whew!). This is an anecdotal post about my family and how the sun affects our sleep. My hope is to get you thinking about the many possible affects of sun on your family so you can do what is best for each individual with naps and bedtime.

NO SUN ALLOWED
The first and most obvious reaction with sleep and the sun is "no sun allowed" while sleeping.

Some of us are what I call "sun risers." This means that when the sun is up, we are up. 

I have always been this way since I was a little girl, and I am still this way. My parents were not structured, so I was allowed to get up when I got up and I got up at 6 AM every day. 

Being a sun riser is great when you want to get up early--but can be hard when it is the longest day of the year and the sun is gracing you somewhere around 4 AM. It can be hard to sleep unless you have blinds to help block the light.

Brayden is also this way. He has always risen with the sun--even as a brand new born. I remember one time when he was two years old and he threw up in his bed in the 3 AM hour. My husband just happened to be working over the night that night, which was a very rare occurance. Kaitlyn was a newborn, so of course sleep was precious to me. 

Oh, and it was summer.

So there I was in the 3 AM hour, cleaning Brayden up and changing his bedding. And not only that, I was racing the sun. I knew without a doubt that if I did not get his bedding changed and him back in bed before that sun came up, he would be up for the day. 

I didn't make it. 

That was one loooooong day. 

In present day, if Brayden ever happens to sleep past time to wake up, all I have to do is open his blinds and he wakes up within 30 seconds. Winter is the only time of year he sleeps in because that is when the sun is up late.

Napping
How are we "sun-risers" impacted by the sun and our napping? In my best estimation, the sun doesn't really matter for naps most of the time. I usually left blinds open or at least partially open for Brayden, and when I am napping, the presence or absence of the sun doesn't really impact my sleep either way.

SUN IS FINE
For some people, the sun has basically no impact on sleep. My husband is this way. The sun coming up does not in any way wake him up.

Kaitlyn is also this way. 

Napping
An interesting thing with Kaitlyn is that she naps much, much better if she has some sunlight in her room.

I was closing her blinds--dark blinds that help block the sun--for her naps and she was not napping well. One day I left them open and she took a great nap! So I started experimenting and she consistently sleeps better if her blinds are open. I do tilt them so the sun can't shine directly on her, but it is bright in her room when she sleeps.

MCKENNA
You might be curious as to where McKenna falls in this discussion. The truth is, I am not positive. As a newborn, she did not nap well with blinds open. She needed them shut. So ever since then, I have done shut blinds for nap and night. 

I do know she is a sun-riser. What I don't know is how the sunshine impacts her napping. In thinking about this post, I decided to crack her blinds a bit for her nap to see how she does. I though there is a possibility that babies need darkness but toddlers do better with some light. She is sleeping right now, and it will take some time of experimenting to get a better idea. 

The take away for you from this post is to make sure you experiment with your children. Some need to go as far as black out blinds or curtains to sleep well at night and for naps. Others sleep fine with light, and some even better with some light for naps. Do some testing to find out what is best for your child.

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10 comments:

Amelia said...

We love blackout curtains at our house! My kids get too stimulated otherwise, especially for naptimes. Thus, sometimes we have a hard time getting good naps out of them if we're staying at some else's house.

Jessica said...

A couple of months ago we transitioned our daughter into a big girl bed (twin). The room is so small that her bed has to be up against 2 windows. At first we battled with her playing with the shades and curtains. She does better now but still looks out the window at night when it is still light out and it's been taking her an hour or so to fall asleep. Any suggestions? I would try the black out curtains but I don't want her to ruin them...they are expensive!
Jessica

bertomango said...

Our daughter (22 mos) has been napping in our walk-in closet since she was about 6 mos old. We keep a mattress & blanket in there just for her. It's great to be able to pull the door closed and have instant darkness - she falls asleep right away.

Plowmanators said...

Jessica,

I really don't have great ideas for you. Brayden's room in our old house was the same way except it was three windows. It will take time, but she will get better.

We also lived diagonally from the city's storage lot for the snowplows and tractors...so you would hear the "beep beep" of those machines backing up at 5 AM followed closely by the sound of Brayden pulling the blinds away so he could watch. He loved trucks.

My husband talked about extreme measures (like nailing up a giant piece wood! lol) but we never did anything like that.

Just keep reminding her, but really, that's like putting a man in front of the television turned on and expecting him to listen to you instead of it :)

Plowmanators said...

Great idea bertomango!

The OD's!!!! said...

My ten week old is very alert. She is so alert that even when she is tired, if it is not pitch black in her room for nap/night time, she will stay awake literally the entire length of nap time. She doesn't fuss, but it really makes her cranky. I started covering her bassinet with a black blanket when it is light out just to ensure she goes to sleep. So far it has always worked.
My question: is it bad that I never try to let her sleep with out the black out blanket? I don't remember what Baby Wise says about sleep props, but would this be considered a sleep prop? I know for a fact she will not sleep for a nap without the black out blanket, but should I be trying to somehow teach her to nap with out it? My fear is she will become dependent on her sleeping environment to be 100% pitch black, and of course that is not an environment I will always be able to provide her. Do you have any experience with this with any of your children? If so (or even if not), is this something she will out grow? I suppose I could also ask her pedi :)

Plowmanators said...

ODs,

My opinion is it is better to have her sleeping really well for the 98% of the time she is in that sleep environment than to sleep okay 100% of the time. You can't always provide that environment, but you will most of the time. And as she gets older, she will most likely be less sensitive to everything.

The OD's!!!! said...

Thank you for the reply :)

The OD's!!!! said...

Update: baby turned 3 months on the 20th and today I layed her down in her basinet with out the black out curtain - she went to sleep quickly!

We just returned home from a two week vacation, and it seemed like about halfway through the trip she was all of the sudden less sensitive to the light.

I'm so excited about this :)

Off topic: which of your blogs talk specifically about when to extend babies day time feedings? I read something before, but now am having difficulty finding it. Thanks in advance!!!

Plowmanators said...

That is great news!

See this post: When to Move to a 4 hour Schedule: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2007/12/when-to-move-to-4-hour-schedule.html

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