True story: When we brought our youngest child home from the hospital, it was the day before Christmas Eve. We live in the Northeast, so you can imagine that it was pretty cold outside. My husband, ever the protector, cranked up the heat in our house to ensure that the baby (and his three older siblings) wouldn’t be cold. But imagine my surprise to discover that he set the thermostat to a staggering 89 degrees. On Christmas Day, while it was snowing outside, we were sweating profusely in shorts and tee shirts. Had we known what the best temperature for Baby’s room was, we might have thought twice about having the house so hot — and saved some money on our oil bill, too.
When it comes to keeping your nursery warm for your newborn, hotter isn’t always better. In fact, it could be preventing your child from sleeping well, and can be potentially dangerous, too.
Do Babies Sleep Better In The Cold?
There’s a reason why people snuggle under covers while they sleep, according to Dr. Sujay Kansagra, Mattress Firm’s sleep health expert, and the director of Duke University’s Pediatric Neurology Sleep Medicine Program. “Our body temperature naturally drops when we fall asleep,” says Dr. Kansagra. “For adults, the ideal sleep temperature is between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit.”
While that might feel pretty brisk, the room temperature shouldn’t be that cool for your kiddo. In fact, you should probably raise your thermostat for your little one. “Since babies cannot regulate their body temperature as well as adults, their sleep environment should be slightly warmer,” adds Kansagra. “By lowering the temperature of your baby’s sleep environment during bedtime, you can make the transition to sleep easier by helping induce feelings of sleepiness.”
How Warm Should Your Baby’s Room Be?
Your baby has been fed, changed, and is finally ready for sleep. (And frankly, so are you.) So to make the room as cozy as possible for your kiddo, you might want to hike up the heat so that Baby is basking in all the warmth — but that’s not a good idea. “While it can be tempting to make a baby’s room extra warm for sleeping, it isn’t safe for babies to sleep in a room warmer than 72 degrees,” Jill Spivack, LCSW and Jen Waldburger, MSW developers of the Owlet Dream Lab explain to Celebrity Parents.
“Babies, like adults, sleep better in cooler temperatures,” adds Jensine Casey, a certified pediatric sleep consultant. “You want to ensure baby is warm to the touch on their stomachs, as their feet and hands may be a little chillier then their middle.”
How Should You Dress Your Baby For Sleep?
Feeling as snug as a bug in a rug might make you think that you’re setting your baby up for better sleep, and for the most part, that’s correct. That might mean swaddling your little sweetie or dressing them to make sure that they’re ready for sleep without overheating. “If you’re worried that your baby is chilly, you can dress them in a thicker, fleecier sleep sack or footie pajamas, layered with a onesie underneath,” explain Spivack and Waldburger. “Sometimes parents mistakenly believe that a baby is too cold if their fingers and toes are chilly. The best way to tell if a baby is warm enough is by touching the back of his/her neck. If the back of his/her neck is warm, their body should be warm enough to sleep well.”
If you want to ensure the safest sleep possible, be sure to banish the blankie from Baby’s crib. Your child’s sleep space should be clutter-free from any items like pillows, bumpers, plushies, and blankets, per the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Opt for a bare crib instead since it creates a free and relaxing environment,” explains Liz Brown, a certified sleep science coach and founder of SleepingLucid.
What Can Happen If Your Baby’s Room Is Too Warm?
Let’s say that it’s especially cold outside, and you don’t want your baby to be crying in their crib because they’re cold. Resist the urge to make the room warmer, though, since it could be very dangerous for your little darling. “A room that is over 72 degrees is too warm for a sleeping baby,” says Spivack and Waldburger. “A baby sleeping in a room that is too warm is in danger of overheating and at risk for kids.” And it’s not just the worry that your child would wake up or be sweating, since a too-hot room can put your baby at risk for SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Researchers found that infants (who are still trying to master homeostatic control) can suffer when there’s thermal stress, which can adversely affect their arousal mechanisms, oxygen flow to the brain, and even cardiac responses. Bedroom heating can increase these risk factors, while a room that is well-ventilated and uses a fan can decrease the risk of SIDS.
Giving your baby a good night’s sleep is the goal of any sleep-deprived parent. But making their sleeping space super warm can have the opposite effect, and even risk your child’s life. So lower the thermostat, dress your baby in an extra layer, and you’ll all have sweet (and safe) dreams.
Jhun, I., Mata, D., Nordio, F., Lee, M., Schwartz, J., Zanobetti, A. (2018) Ambient Temperature and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in the United States, Epidemiology.
Dr. Sujay Kansagra, Mattress Firm’s sleep health expert, and the director of Duke University’s Pediatric Neurology Sleep Medicine Program
Jill Spivack, LCSW and Jen Waldburger, MSW developers of the Owlet Dream Lab
Jensine Casey, a certified pediatric sleep consultant
Liz Brown, a certified sleep science coach and founder of SleepingLucid