The Background of Sleep Hormones:
Did you know that we actually have a sleep science to our bodies? It is not just read this book, try this method, tweak the schedule and routine, there is actually a reason and deep look into science and how it rules our sleep rhythms. Two important aspects I am going to focus on today is the type of sleep hormones in the body and how they can affect a baby or child's sleep.
Melatonin (Sleep Hormone)-
As bedtime approaches, the sleep hormone known as Melatonin starts to rise, usually in the evening hours. This is one reasons babies, not referring to newborns, usually prefer a bedtime between 6:00-7:30 pm. Melatonin is a hormone that is released in the dark, when darkness is not present the melatonin can not be produced. The most restorative part of our night happens usually up until the midnight marker. Melatonin rules our night time sleep, levels will stay elevated throughout the night and start to fall as the new day approaches. After midnight melatonin begins to go down and usually by the early morning hours the melatonin is non-existent. This is one reason for seeing the early morning risings and this is the lightest part of sleep and no longer is the deep state of sleep happening. This is where babies can notice the sleep environment, additional noises, hunger, the sleep temperature in the room to name a few. It is important to remember night time sleep cycles are much different than day time sleep.
When the summer months are in full force and the sun sets much later, it is tough for babies and young children to settle to sleep. Melatonin can not set into full effect and this is where the sleep environment is very important. We can create a false dark environment by introducing black out curtains or shades. Once the body realizes the sleep environment is fully dark the production of melatonin can begin at bedtime and increase.
Cortisol (Stress Hormone)-
Cortisol is linked to our circadian rhythm and tends to peak in the afternoon hours. This is the bodies main stress hormone and is our little alert system within the body. One part of this stress hormone is to control moods. Too high of cortisol will contribute to the fight or flight instinct and babies can fall easily into this mode if the proper day sleep is not in place. The cortisol levels fall when we sleep, and this is a big factor for babies and young children to be sure the appropriate day time sleep is in place, so cortisol levels are not too high, causing issues for sleep. Napping helps keep cortisol levels at bay and if the proper day sleep is not in place you will start to see signs of over tiredness, hyper activity and hard for babies and young children to flip a switch to settle and calm for sleep periods in the day. I hear it all the time, my child is just wired and won’t sleep, this is because the cortisol levels reached an all time high and baby or child is unable to calm and settle down to sleep, the sleep window was missed and sends the body into overdrive. High levels of cortisol with decrease the good sleep hormone of melatonin in which babies and children will not be able to settle into restful sleep at bedtime and overnight sleep. Many times, in the afternoon and late evenings, babies have gone hours upon hours without a good restorative nap in which sets up a disastrous bedtime and multiple waking’s for the rest of the night.
I want you to understand the importance of the proper day and night sleep and how these two hormones can affect a baby or child tremendously.
Before you jump into the next method, technique or book, be sure to asses and look at a baby’s overall body of work, including two important hormones. It can get a bit overwhelming and intimidating to break down how it all works in the body, if you have more questions and are ready to take the next step and get your baby or child on the right track with sleep, email me firstname.lastname@example.org