So, who is right?
Now that I’m a pediatric sleep consultant, I can tell you neither is. On some level, we can get used to certain environmental noises when we sleep. If you live in a busy neighborhood, you’re going to get used to a bit of baseline noise. However, when we fall asleep, our brains do not turn off, and if a certain sound wakes you, it will most likely wake your baby.
A newborn’s sleep cycle looks completely different than an adult’s sleep cycle. When a newborn falls asleep, they go directly into REM sleep, which is a light and more active sleep. This means they can be easily woken up. They spend half their time asleep in this active stage, about 20-25 minutes, before entering non-REM sleep, which is much deeper and harder to awaken from. Sleep cycles at this age are about 45 minutes, and will lengthen over time. An adults sleep cycle is about 90-110 minutes, and we only spend about 20% of our time during sleep in REM.
I tell parents to be respectful of noise when their child is sleeping. Think about it, would you like it if someone was using a vacuum or running up and down the stairs right outside of your room? However, if you’re too quiet and tiptoeing around the house during naps, then any kind of little disturbance from dead quiet is probably going to wake up your baby, like the creaking of floor boards or an outside dog barking. Therefore, you don’t want to be too, too quiet.
A lot of parents will tell me that their child is a light sleeper, and that the tiniest noise wakes them up. This is common when a child is, what I consider, tricked into sleep. For example, you rock your baby to sleep and then carefully transfer them to the crib. Then, if there is a bit of environmental noise, they’ll probably wake up with a start and realize they’re not in your arms anymore. Often, they wake up crying right off the bat because they’re no longer where they were when they fell asleep. For anyone, that would be fairly alarming, so those types of situations sort of create this hair trigger; with the tiniest noise and your baby’s going to fly awake and probably start crying.
Once a child learns their own skills for getting to sleep, they’ll be much more able to deal with some noise and will become much better sleepers. If, for example an ambulance goes by in the night, I might wakeup and acknowledge that it’s an ambulance but I’ll go right back to sleep. I wouldn’t need anyone to come to me or do anything for me. I’ll know that it woke me up but I will have the skills to get myself back to sleep. When a baby has those same skills, and someone drives by the house blasting some serious bass music, they’ll probably wake up, acknowledge that they heard a noise and then go back to sleep. You’ll find that your once super light sleeper becomes a fairly deep sleeper, within reason, and capable of getting themselves back to sleep should they be awoken by something.
If you are thinking about getting a sound machine for your baby’s room, I have a few guidelines for you to keep in mind.
- No music or anything that has words. This is usually too stimulating because of the varying beats and volume changes, which may prevent your little one from getting their full restorative deep phase that they need.
- Keep the sound down. The sound should be below 50 decibels, which is low enough for you to hold a conversation with someone and not have to raise your voice.
- Whatever is making the sound, must stay on for the entire duration of the night or nap. This is because your baby will become accustomed to the sound and expect it during sleep. Don’t worry, when your baby is older, you can slowly wean them off the sound by lowering the volume each night.
- You don’t have to use white noise. Since birth, I have used the sound of a heart beating for my daughter. The rhythmic repeating at a low volume has always worked well for us. You can also use a fan or air purifier, not pointed at the crib, set on low.
- Whatever is making the sound, keep it as far away from the crib as possible. If the noise is coming from a window or door, put the sound machine or fan there, and put your baby’s crib on the opposite wall, if possible.
As always, when your child is not sleeping well, you don’t have to just deal with it. I offer free 15-minute sleep evaluations, to help you chose a sleep solution that is best for your family. Click here for Free Sleep Evaluation.
The hardest part when making changes is all the questions and doubt. This is why I support all of my families with professional guidance and support, to ensure a better sleep outcome for everyone. For more sleep tips, facts, studies, events, giveaways and more, Like and Follow me at Beddy Bye Sleep Solutions on Facebook.
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